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Early team news for Liverpool v United

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Adam Marshall

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men are three points clear of the champions at the Premier League summit, and four ahead of third-placed Manchester City, who closed the gap with a narrow 1-0 home victory against Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday.

Both Ole and Jurgen Klopp face an anxious wait on the fitness of several key players before any plans can be finalised at the weekend.

Anthony Martial and Nemanja Matic appeared to sustain knocks in the closing stages of the tense 1-0 win over Burnley, with the pair leaving the field before time was up at Turf Moor.

Victor Lindelof felt a reaction to his back problem before that game but in his absence, Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire formed a rock-solid partnership in keeping a precious clean sheet on Tuesday night. There could be a temptation to field three central defenders on Merseyside, as Ole did a year ago, when Luke Shaw played alongside Lindelof and Maguire; Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams patrolled the flanks in the 2-0 defeat.

On that occasion, Daniel James and Andreas Pereira, who is on loan at Lazio, both started. Marcus Rashford was unavailable due to injury but this time around, he will hopefully be raring to go and looking to continue his good record against Liverpool. Since last season's meeting on Merseyside, Bruno Fernandes has arrived at United to bring his creative spark and another 2020 signing, Edinson Cavani, provides another option in attack. 

There are big decisions to be made in midfield after Paul Pogba's excellent Man-of-the-Match display at Burnley, while Fred was rested and Scott McTominay only came on towards the end. Matic also performed well and, if he is passed fit, he also has strong claims.

Ole could also look to the pace of James again in a bid to expose the home side's defence, particularly if they play a high line, with Mason Greenwood another contender for a place.

LIVERPOOL TEAM NEWS

Klopp's side are missing the huge influence of captain Virgil van Dijk after the long-term knee injury he sustained in October's Merseyside derby keeps him sidelined. Fellow centre-back Joe Gomez has a similar problem and doubts persist over Joel Matip's involvement as he has been pictured working away from the main group in training.

Fabinho and his fellow midfielder Jordan Henderson have operated in the middle of the back four but Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams are more natural players for that position.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thiago Alcantara are fit again and front trio Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah rarely miss a game. However, Diogo Jota is still out of action and there appears to be a question mark over Naby Keita's availability.

We'll have updates from both camps on Friday, following the managers' respective press conferences.

by

Adam Marshall

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