Liverpool vs. Manchester United: FA Cup Quarterfinal Preview

After winning one domestic cup, can Liverpool get past their archrivals to keep the quadruple push alive?
Liverpool FC v Manchester United - Premier League
Liverpool FC v Manchester United - Premier League / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

It's hard to know why Jürgen Klopp does many of the things he does, and his lineup choices for the second leg of Liverpool's matchup with Sparta Prague are no exception.

Klopp started a very strong lineup with the aggregate score already at 5-1, and left starters like Mo Salah in to play a full 90 minutes even as that margin ballooned to 11-2.

Still, that's a positive sign regarding the return of depth to Liverpool's squad. With an international break on the way, things are only set to get even better on that front, so there should be plenty of resources available to take down Manchester United once more in the FA Cup. Let's take a look at who might play, and what to expect in that quarterfinal match.

Top of the Pitch

It's safe to say that Liverpool's attack is back after Salah played a full 90 against Sparta Prague, chipping in a hat trick of assists and a goal of his own in the process, en route to a hilarious match score of 9.7 from FotMob.

He was joined up top by Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo, who combined for three goals, although Nunez played just the first half- expect him to start once more against United.

As for Salah, you'd have to imagine that Klopp wanted his legs stretched out in a low-stakes situation in preparation for a full outing at Old Trafford- there's no way he truly prioritized the Prague match ahead of this one.

Luis Díaz was theoretically a healthy scratch against Sparta, so he's going to be on the left wing against United if that's the case, and he should really be able to push Diogo Dalot in what should be an interesting matchup.

United's defense is a veteran group, even if established players like Raphaël Varane are not quite playing their best.

The Red Devils' 39 goals are tied for the fourth-lowest total in the league, although they're a good bit behind the top three of Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester City.

However, things are even uglier when it comes to xG- they rank 10th in that category, showing the value of goalkeeper André Onana.

This dichotomy was on full display earlier this year as these teams fought to an 0-0 draw despite 34 shots from Liverpool, eight of which were on target- the Reds will look to avoid a similar fate in this match.

The Midfield

This group is about to get even more interesting after the international break, as Curtis Jones, Stefan Bajcetic, and Trent Alexander-Arnold are all set to potentially return then, but for now, things are relatively straightforward.

The red-hot Alexis Mac Allister got a full day off against Sparta; he's starting. Harvey Elliott finally got a break from the lineup and played just the second half; he's in the lineup as well.

Wataru Endō only appeared in the first half of that match; he's in as well, with Dominik Szoboszlai likely the odd man out amidst mediocre form, but he could make an appearance if an attacking push is needed.

Like just about every other metric, possession percentage has United right around league-average, with an average mark just over 50%.

Bruno Fernandes continues to be the team's best player, by some margin, and Sofyan Amrabat is a really hard worker in the center of the pitch, but United will need just a bit more than they've been getting out of guys like Scott McTominay and Casemiro if they hope to compete against Liverpool's suddenly elite midfield three.

The Back End

This is another part of the lineup where things are about to get fascinating, with good form from backups Joe Gomez and especially Conor Bradley.

That being said, Trent is still out for the moment and Ibrahima Konaté is probably not ready for a full 90 even if he can appear against United, so expect Gomez to have some role at least for right now.

Virgil van Dijk was in vintage form against Manchester City for one of the best performances of his LFC career, which is certainly saying something.

Bradley stood tall against City's outside players as well, while Jarell Quansah was great support for Virgil in the middle.

The question is that second centre-back position, with Andrew Robertson expected to return to left back after running the full 90 against Sparta. Joe Gomez started in that spot for the City match, and then alongside Quansah on Thursday as Virgil got most of the day off.

Either Quansah or Gomez could start, but it wouldn't be shocking to see the duties shared in some way or another.

United are a dismal 15th in the league in goal scoring per match, and xG isn't much prettier as the club really has struggled to find an attacking identity since the controversial departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Three players are tied for the team lead with just seven Premier League goals in what has been a really tough offensive campaign thus far.

However, there are signs of life; Marcus Rashford has scored in back-to-back Premier League matches, while Rasmus Højlund has done so in six consecutive outings in all competitions, for a total of 8 goals in his pas 8 matches.

This group could pose some issues, especially at home in a huge match, so it'll be a big test for Liverpool's increasingly healthy back line going into the break.