The FA Cup third round gets underway on Friday night with one of the ties of the round taking centre stage. Merseyside rivals Liverpool and Everton do battle at Anfield but with the game coming hot on the heels of a gruelling Premier League fixture list, it is probably a match that Jurgen Klopp and Sam Allardyce would have wished for later in the competition.
We can expect various changes in personnel but the tension of one of England’s biggest derbies will be renewed regardless of who takes to the pitch. Liverpool have been in good winning form over the festive period and the Reds sit fourth in the Premier League table after successive victories over Swansea, Leicester and Burnley. Everton experienced a massive turnaround when Sam Allardyce started the job at Goodison but the novelty has worn off in the last two games – a 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth and a 2-0 home loss to Manchester United last time out. Both teams will prioritise league position, while the Reds have Champions League football to think about too, but both would also enjoy progression in the FA Cup at the expense of their city rivals.
Friday’s other game sees Championship high-flyers Derby travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United. The Premier League looks all but lost for Jose Mourinho and the Red Devils but they are still competing in the Champions League and this competition. A shock defeat at Bristol City in the Carabao Cup quarter-final has ruled out a defence of that trophy, so the FA Cup and Europe’s elite competition are United’s only real chances of silverware this season. The Portuguese manager is likely to rest some of his top stars but whatever side he puts out should be more than a match for Derby. County sit 2nd in the Championship and may well opt to rest players too as they prioritise promotion. The Rams have also played four matches over the busy Christmas period (two wins, two draws) and this is an occasion they will enjoy without too much expectation on the result.
Liverpool v Everton
Liverpool are short odds to win the match outright and there could be more value in backing the Reds to win and both teams to score at +235 with 888Sport.
Both Coutinho and Salah will be missing from the Liverpool line-up due to injury, with the former also being linked to a January transfer to Barcelona. However, that didn’t prevent them from grabbing an excellent win at Burnley last week and there is still quality flowing throughout the side. Virgil Van Dijk could make his debut for Liverpool after his £75 million switch from Southampton. The Reds have conceded in five of the last ten matches and won the last two with both teams scoring.
Everton have found the net the last two times they’ve faced their rivals, once in December’s 1-1 draw at Anfield and once in a 3-1 defeat back in April last season. The defence has come unstuck in recent games as Allardyce has watched his side concede twice to Bournemouth and Manchester United, but he is expected to deploy pragmatic tactics once again on Friday night. Everton sat deep in that Anfield draw and hit back late on through Wayne Rooney’s penalty to claim the point. Circumstances will dictate how open this game is as th 90 minutes unfold but if an early goal goes in, armchair fans could be in for an end-to-end thriller.
Manchester United v Derby
Manchester United should be good enough to win on Friday night against Derby and are taken to do so without conceding at odds of -105 with BetVictor.
The Red Devils won the League Cup and the Europa League last season to claim two trophies and a place in the Champions League. They are among the elite clubs in England where success is measured in silverware but their chances have quickly diminished over the last month. The defeat to Man City and a run of three successive Premier League draws have scuppered their title chances, while defeat at Bristol City was a humiliating way to exit the Carabao Cup. The Champions League must be a priority but the FA Cup provides a valuable trophy to aim for if United don’t want to end the season empty-handed. Going out of both cups to lower league opposition is unthinkable at Old Trafford and we don’t expect United to make any mistakes – despite a potentially ‘weakend’ eleven.
Derby may well opt to rest some of the stars that have helped the Rams climb to second place in the Championship. The games have come thick and fast in England’s second tier too, and there is no doubt that Derby will be targetting promotion rather than a run in the FA Cup. Seven wins in the last ten games have seen the Rams move into the automatic promotion spots and one of the keys to their success is the second-best defence in the division. They will be a difficult side for United to break down but ultimately the Red Devils’ class should make the difference in the end.
Liverpool to win and both teams to score
Friday 5th January, 19:55 GMT
Manchester United to win to nil
Friday 5th January, 20:00 GMT