Liverpool vs. Manchester United Stat Preview: Who Will Win Key Matchups?

Yoosof Farah@@YoosofFarahSenior Writer IIIOctober 13, 2011

Liverpool vs. Manchester United Stat Preview: Who Will Win Key Matchups?

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    In a Premier League match as big as Liverpool vs. Manchester United at Anfield, the one thing everyone wants to know is, what are the key player matchups and who will win them?

    After all, in a game of this magnitude, with all the intense rivalry and history that goes with it, team form flies out of the window, with the winners in player duels being the key to success.

    And so, in the ultimate statistical preview, here are the key matchups in the most important areas of the pitch, and who is most likely to win them.

Nani vs. Jose Enrique

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    Considering Manchester United's excellent wing play ,and the fact that Liverpool's best defender is on the left, the match-up between Nani and Jose Enrique is quite possibly the most important, and obvious, one of the game.

    And the chances are, the Portuguese winger might just get the better of the Spanish full-back.

    So far this season, from seven games, Nani has completed 23 successful dribbles at a rate of 3.3 per match, while Enrique has won 13 tackles, at a rate of 1.9 per game, which means, in races along the byline, Nani has more of a chance of skipping past his marker.

    Nani has also made three assists and 18 chances created from the wing, at a rate of 2.6 key passes per game, and a goal scored from every one of six opportunities he creates for teammates.

    And considering Enrique has only made nine interceptions, at a rate of 1.7 per match, the chances are that Nani could well get a few crosses into the box, and quite possibly an assist from the right wing.

    Nani wins this matchup for Manchester United, but will do well just to get an assist out of it.

Ashley Young vs. Martin Kelly

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    With Glen Johnson fit again for Liverpool, manager Kenny Dalglish might decide to start experience over youth at right-back. But, if, as form and the opinion of the fans suggests, Martin Kelly starts at right-back, he'll be up against in-form winger Ashley Young.

    And, if statistics are anything to go by, Manchester United look like winning it on this flank as well.

    Young probably won't win any races along the byline with Kelly, considering he's only completed 6 dribbles this season at a rate of 0.7 per game, while the defender has won 10 tackles at a rate of 2.5 per game.

    But, as he likes to cut inside, what he probably will do is create many chances for his team, seen as he's already created 16 goalscoring chances for United at a rate of 2.7 per match, while Kelly only makes 0.5 interceptions per game.

    And, considering England's star player has five assists, creating a goal after every 3.2 key passes, given the form of United's strikers, he could easily get two or three more come Saturday afternoon.

    Ashley Young might not score, as he only scores once every seven shots, and a rate of 2.3 shots per game won't have many chances himself seen as Martin Kelly, on average, blocks 1.3 per match, but one thing he looks very likely to do is make an assist or two, meaning this is another matchup he wins for Manchester United.

Wayne Rooney vs. Jamie Carragher

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    An ageing defender seemingly past his prime against a striker entering his athletic peak in the best form of his career.

    Put that way, it doesn't seem wise for Jamie Carragher to face Wayne Rooney on Saturday, but that's what will most likely be the case, considering Carragher's vast experience in this match, and the fact that Rooney will be told by manager Sir Alex Ferguson to ditch the marking from Daniel Agger and channel his attacks in Carragher's position.

    And, looking at the stats, it seems Rooney will get the better of Carragher.

    The striker has scored nine goals this season, at a rate of one goal for every 4 shots on goal, having hit, on average, 6.2 shots per game.

    Carragher has only blocked 3 shots this term at a rate of 0.4 per match, and, given the assist-making powers of Rooney's teammates, it seems almost certain Rooney will beat Carragher and get a goal in this match.

    Rooney most likely won't get an assist, as he's only got two assists despite making 18 key passes, at a rate of 3 chances created per game and one assist in every nine key passes.

    And, considering he's in a central position (which means Carragher's tackling can deny him), Carragher's 1.4 tackles won per game mean he probably will create at least one chance, possibly two, but won't necessarily claim an assist.

    Either way though, Rooney has got a goal in him for this match, and wins the match-up against the Liverpool veteran.

Lucas Leiva vs. Tom Cleverley

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    In the battle of the midfield, fit again Tom Cleverley is pushing for a start for Manchester United against Liverpool. If he does start, he'll be in direct opposition with Lucas Leiva.

    Chances are, nothing special will come directly from Cleverley, seen as Lucas has been in brilliant form, already winning 42 tackles this season at a rate of 6.6 per game, and considering Cleverley has only made three successful dribbles at a rate of 0.8 per match.

    And the United man won't spark any goalscoring opportunities it seems, given that his opposite number has made 2.1 interceptions per game, while he's only hit two key passes at a rate of 0.5 per match.

    Although, he has made an assist, meaning at the moment, he does technically create a goal for every two chances he makes.

    So as a defensive midfielder up against an attacking one, it seems Lucas Leiva wins this matchup for Liverpool, and could well nullify any threat from central midfield, given Tom Cleverley is probably the player Manchester United would look to for that.

Anderson vs. Charlie Adam

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    In the other midfield battle, it's most likely to be Charlie Adam against Anderson.

    And again it seems the defensive midfielder will come out on top.

    The statistics suggest Adam might not claim an assist in this match, as he's only hit 1.6 key passes per game, while Anderson has made two interceptions per game.

    The Scotland international could find it tough getting the ball past Anderson, considering he's made only six successful dribbles at a rate of 0.9 per match, while Brazil international Anderson has won 13 tackles at a rate of 2.9 per match.

    So it seems no significant goalscoring threat from either side will come from central midfield, which is significant, as it means most of the play in the match on Saturday could well happen on the wings.

Dirk Kuyt vs. Patrice Evra

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    Despite not being the most consistent starter this term for Liverpool, Dirk Kuyt could well start against Manchester United, given his vast experience, the fact he scored a hat-trick in the last match against them, and the fact he's used in all the big games by the Reds, having played against Arsenal and in their last outing in the big Merseyside derby against Everton.

    He'll probably play on the right wing and be up against United's left-back Patrice Evra. And it's a match-up Kuyt might just win.

    Of course, he won't beat Evra down the byline like a normal winger, but, considering he's made eight key passes at a rate of 1.3 per game, he'll create a goalscoring chance seeing as Evra's only made 5 interceptions at a rate of 0.8 per match, and could claim an assist, as he's already got one to his name this season.

    And the flying Dutchman might also get a goalscoring opportunity or two himself, seen as he's an in-cutting winger and has got away 1.7 shots per game on goal, while France international Evra has only blocked 0.5 shots on goal.

    Dirk Kuyt wins this matchup for Liverpool, and, considering his team's focus of play, could also be down the wings, he could possibly claim a goal or an assist, or both.

Nemanja Vidic vs. Luis Suarez

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    Nemanja Vidic is reportedly set to start for Manchester United against Liverpool at Anfield, and his inclusion will come as a big boost for Sir Alex Ferguson.

    Especially considering he'll be up against in-form Luis Suarez, and looks like he'll get the better of the Uruguayan.

    According to the stats, it seems Suarez might not be able to dribble past Vidic and create a one-on-one with David De Gea, because despite the fact he's successfully completed 1.7 dribbles per game, Vidic has won three tackles per match.

    And it seems he won't get too many other chances to score either. 

    The striker this season has scored with every six shots on goal, and considering he has, on average, 3.3 shots per game, and the fact Vidic blocks an average of one shot per game, Suarez will have to be much more clinical than usual if he is to find the net.

    Which seems unlikely, given that David De Gea has made more saves and has a better saves-to-shots ratio than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League this season.

    So, chances are Nemanja Vidic will beat Luis Suarez in this player duel, with it quite improbable that the Uruguayan will add to his four goal tally in this match.

    And, overall in the game, it seems Manchester United will just edge Liverpool, having won five of the seven key player matchups.

    Yoosof Farah's prediction: Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United (Kuyt for Liverpool, Rooney double for United).

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