Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sunday Preview: Liverpool - Manchester United

My apologies for getting this out late. I was hoping to have it Thursday but some personal things came up plus I've been working on a new model and some other stuff.

The biggest rivalry in England has no doubt lost its luster but remains one of the better rivalries in sport.


The clubs at each end of the Mersey are easily the two most successful clubs in England. Both have 18 domestic league titles, both have 14 domestic cup titles (though Manchester United have 11 FA Cups to Liverpool's 7). Liverpool have the edge in Europe with 5 Champions League or European Cups plus three UEFA Cups. United have 3 Champions League/European Cups and a Cup Winners' Cup.

I say the rivalry has lost its luster because most all of the above for Liverpool happened over 20 years ago. In the very likely event that Liverpool fail to win the league title this season, they will have gone 20 seasons without doing so. You could probably be a millionaire now if you'd bet just a few bucks (or quid if you like) on them having 20 dry seasons in a row. In contrast, Manchester United have won 11 league titles in that span.

Looking head-to-head, in league matches Liverpool have won 51 matches, United 58 matches and they have 43 draws. That 7-win gap is exactly from the last 19 years where Liverpool have not won the title. In that span Liverpool have won 11, United 18 and they have had 9 draws. In the last 10 seasons at Anfield Liverpool have 3 wins, Manchester United 5 wins and they played to a draw twice.


Liverpool are on an historically bad run. They have lost 4 matches in a row in all competitions, which hasn't happened in more than 20 years. Looking just at the league, they have 3 wins and 2 losses in their last 5. Manchester United have been going in a more Manchester Unitedly direction. They have 10 wins and a draw in their last 11 matches in all competitions and 4 wins and a draw in their last five league matches.

Of note, Rafa Benitez has a lot of pressure on him and it's conceivable that the Liverpool manager could get fired, sacked as it were, if things go really badly tomorrow.


Injuries are a big story, unfortunately. For Liverpool, Torres and Glen Johnson have been out and Gerrard was subbed out early in the Champions League loss due to a nagging groin injury. All three are in doubt but it looks likely that Torres and Johnson will play. On the other side, the most important injury news is that Manchester United are expected to be without Rooney due to an injured calf. Darren Fletcher and Park Ji-Sung will be out as well. Fortunately for them, Giggs and Evra are expected to be back.

Scoring and Conceding

Based on schedules and goals scored, the model rates the two teams as almost exactly even offensively. The biggest difference is at the other end. Defensively, Manchester United rate just behind Chelsea in second. Liverpool are significantly worse, ranking 7th defensively. The model says that if they played a full season at the level shown so far, Liverpool would be expected to concede 15 more goals than United.


The model does not take form or injuries into account (something I'm working on probably with a new model). Given how extreme both are for this match, keep that in mind. It gives Liverpool a slight edge, largely due to playing at home. It says they will win 39% of the time, Manchester United 33% and they will play to a draw 28% of the time. To be honest I'm not sure how it should be adjusted. Gerrard being out or far less than 100%, Torres not being at his best assuming he plays and Liverpool's awful form and the potential chaos surrounding Rafa Benitez all go against Liverpool. On the other hand, Rooney being out is a blow for United. I think that overall probably favors Man U. I would say flipping them seems about right, so 33% for Liverpool, 39% for Man United and 28% for the draw.

For scorelines, according to the model the most likely result is a 1-1 draw with 2-1 and 1-2 after that. I think with Torres not fully fit, Gerrard and Rooney likely out, 1-0 or 0-1 are more likely to be winning scores than 2-1 and 1-2. I'll make my prediction 0-1 for Manchester United.

No comments:

Post a Comment