Liverpool vs Man Utd: modern Klopp can end the Van Gaal era
Two coaches with very different approaches come face-to-face in biggest fixture of the Premier League season
This weekend features a series of top versus bottom clashes in the Premier League, but there is no doubt about the biggest game taking place.
Liverpool and Manchester United, who have 38 league titles between them, share one of the world's fiercest sporting rivalries, so the visit of Louis van Gaal's underperforming side to Anfield to take on Jurgen Klopp's erratic troops is by far the hottest ticket in town.
The game may not have the look of a title decider - Liverpool are ninth in the table and United sixth - but it could have far-reaching consequences for both sides.
A win for Liverpool could be terminal for Van Gaal's hopes of keeping his job and would make Klopp the most popular man in the red side of Merseyside. On the other hand, victory for United could re-energise their season and mark the end of the honeymoon for Liverpool's German coach, who has so far escaped widespread criticism despite some poor performances since he took over.
Both these sides were involved in 3-3 draws midweek, but the managers' reactions could not have been more different.
While Klopp revelled in the draw against Arsenal, Van Gaal appeared furious after his side were held at Newcastle.
"Where Klopp jumps, shouts and swears, Van Gaal tends to sit stonily, only the occasional twitch of the mouth hinting at his emotion," notes Jonathan Wilson of The Guardian. "The sense of Klopp and Van Gaal as opposites is about more than their personality types, however. It is a question of philosophy and the dialectic that is shaping modern football."
Van Gaal's possession-based brand of football influenced renowned manager Pep Guardiola and helped create the "tiki-taka" passing of the late 2000s. That in turn spawned the counter-attacking style espoused by Klopp, who says he prefers his football to be "heavy metal" rather than classical.
It is Klopp's way that is in the ascendency today, says Wilson, and for once it is Van Gaal that looks "old-fashioned".
"It is not often in the Premier League era that Liverpool have been the more modern side in a meeting with United, which may be of succour to the more optimistic Liverpool fans," he writes.
On a less philosophical level, the fact that both teams scored three goals in the week should bode well. And United will be boosted by the recent return to form of striker Wayne Rooney, who can do "heavy metal" with the best of them.
However, the pundits are unable to pick a winner in this one. Mark Lawrenson of the BBC believes "Louis van Gaal's side will come and sit and look to hit Liverpool on the break", which will hamper the Reds. He predicts a draw.
Paul Merson of Sky Sports, meanwhile, sees nothing but goals.
"Liverpool can't defend but they will have a go," he says. "A draw is pointless for both teams and because of that, it will be a gung-ho football match. Both sides will be going all out for victory and that will make it a superb game to watch."
Having said that he predicts that the game will finish 2-2.