Premier League Preview: Bittersweet test for Liverpool vs Manchester United

Jurgen Klopp could find himself stuck between a rock and hard place this Sunday...

Jurgen Klopp. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

At the beginning of the season, if somebody had told Liverpool supporters that their side would going into a potential title decider at Old Trafford with just five games left to play in the Premier League, very few would have guessed that they wouldn’t even be in contention.

The Reds are sixth in the table, and face Manchester United knowing that a win against their bitterest rivals could hand Manchester City a fifth Premier League title, assuming they beat Crystal Palace on Saturday lunchtime.

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All in all, it’s a bizarre situation that could lead to some very, very mixed feelings on Merseyside.

We’ve taken a closer look at both of those matches, and the rest of this weekend’s top flight action, below...

Southampton vs Leicester City – Only one winner at St. Mary’s

If you’re looking for an easy, and admittedly pretty dull, way to spice up Friday night’s clash between Southampton and Leicester City, why not get a sweepstake going on how long it takes Sky’s commentary team to mention the Foxes 9-0 win over the Saints in October 2019?

Anything beyond three minutes would be borderline miraculous.

In terms of this match, cricket scores seem unlikely, but with a recent FA Cup final victory over Southampton in their back pocket already, and with Kelechi Iheanacho playing like the physical embodiment of a cheat code incarnate, it would be a major shock if the away side didn’t stroll through this one.

Crystal Palace vs Manchester City – Pray for Roy’s boys

If there were any doubts over how good Man City are this year, their midweek Champions League comeback against PSG was a perfect illustration of just how imperious Pep Guardiola’s men have become.

Is this the best City side that the Spaniard has assembled during his time at the Etihad? The fact that it’s even in the running it praise enough.

Of course, Crystal Palace have given the Blues more than one bloody nose in recent seasons, but the expectation will be an absolute mauling from the champions elect.

Brighton vs Leeds United – Albion face tricky task against Bielsa juggernaut

Again, for fans of a good sweepstake, why not see how long it takes for Sky to drop a casual mention of Ben White's hugely successful loan spell at Elland Road last season?

Perhaps one day this game will no longer be regarded as the Ben White Derby, but make no mistake, that day will not come this weekend.

More pressingly, this is a game that Brighton could really do with winning.

A slip-up against Sheffield United last Saturday has left them looking like the most precarious side hanging on above the bottom three, although their seven point cushion and superior goal difference should mean that one more win is enough to see them to safety.

As for Leeds, they will be licking their lips going into this meeting.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men continue to banish unsubstantiated claims that they begin to struggle in the latter stages of campaigns, and have embarked on one of their most eye-catching runs of form to date over the past six matches.

A victory in this one would do wonders for their hopes of a top-half finish.

Chelsea vs Fulham – Cottagers need a derby day upset

The West London derby maybe doesn’t burn as brightly or with as much heat as other feuds in the English game, but expect there to be plenty of needle involved in this one – especially with so much on the line for both sides.

Chelsea are, of course, bidding for a spot in the Champions League next season, and took the initiative in that race with a tight win over West Ham last time out.

As for Fulham, there was a time not too long ago when they looked like being the Premier League’s great escapologists this season, but since then, Scott Parker and his men appear to have dropped the keys to their handcuffs in the bottom of their burlap sack, and are now writhing around like a fish out of water.

They need to win this one to keep their slim survival hopes alive.

Everton vs Aston Villa – Toffees could still be dark horses

There are few fixtures as quintessentially ‘English top flight’ as Everton vs Aston Villa.

These two clubs are arguably two of the most historic sides in the game, and while neither have enjoyed great success in recent years, it’s always a clash that catches the eye.

In this latest iteration, much of the emphasis will be on whether or not the Toffees can keep their slim hopes of Champions League football alive.

They’re currently six points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, but hold a crucial game in hand, and as long as they’re within touching distance, Carlo Ancelotti will fancy his chances.

Newcastle United vs Arsenal – Toon Army march on

This time a couple of months ago, Newcastle would have been many people’s favourites to be the third team relegated this season.

In recent weeks, however, Steve Bruce's men have managed to turn a corner in a huge way, and a battling point at Anfield last weekend was another major indication off just how far they have come.

Sunday's clash against Arsenal would have been a daunting affair once upon a time, but the Gunners are playing more like water pistols than cannons at the moment, and that factor, coupled with the Magpies’ resurgence, could make for a very interesting dynamic.

Manchester United vs Liverpool – Jurgen settles in between a rock and a hard place

As far as Catch-22s go, there have been far more torturous propositions than the one Liverpool could face at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Still, the last thing Jurgen Klopp will have wanted at this stage of the season is to know that a win for his side over their bitterest rivals could hand the league title to Manchester City.

Of course, regardless of this result, City’s victory is all but inevitable.

That being said, it would take a huge amount of sheen off of a Liverpool win if it were to spark celebrations in the blue half of Manchester.

Tottenham vs Sheffield United – Spurs’ Mason experiment continues

The more you look at Tottenham's decision to oust Jose Mourinho and bring in Ryan Mason on an interim basis, the more it looks like a baffling decision.

Spurs approached last weekend’s Carabao Cup final with minimal gusto and nothing more than trace levels of attacking intent, and were subsequently taught a bit of a lesson by Manchester City.

If this is Mason’s big audition to prove that he could be a justifiable candidate for the vacant manager’s role on a permanent basis, then he needs to show some bravery sharpish.

Thankfully, there is nobody better to flex your goal-scoring muscles against than Sheffield United, who have shipped 56 goals in 33 matches this season.

West Brom vs Wolves – Too little, too late for Baggies?

Sam Allardyce was always going to make a good go of things at West Brom.

It took a while for his Baggies side to properly start looking like one of his trademark teams, but now, with five games to go, they appear to be at a level where, given more time, they would probably wriggle their way free of relegation.

Unfortunately for Big Sam, time is a commodity that he doesn’t have, and that nine point gap between Albion and safety appears all but insurmountable.

A win in the Black Country derby would be a welcome boost, but it may still be too little, too late.

Burnley vs West Ham – Clarets need one more win

Burnley will no doubt be buzzing as they go into this clash against high-flying West Ham.

The Clarets thrashed Wolves in their last outing, and after that game hat-trick hero Chris Wood suggested that he and his teammates should need just one more win to be 100% guaranteed of their Premier League status next season.

A clash against this year’s surprise package West Ham probably won’t be the easiest opportunity to get themselves over the line, but nonetheless, Sean Dyche’s side will head into this one feeling confident.