EPL

Shaqiri starts for Liverpool, three changes for Man Utd

By Sports Desk January 17, 2021

Xherdan Shaqiri surprisingly starts for Liverpool in their top-of-the-table clash with rivals Manchester United at Anfield. 

The Swiss set up two goals after coming off the bench in last weekend's FA Cup win at Aston Villa and has earned himself a place in the XI against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side as a result. 

Jurgen Klopp has gone with a forward-thinking 4-2-3-1 formation in order to fit Shaqiri into the team. 

However, centre-back Joel Matip misses out despite resuming training this week after overcoming a groin injury. 

Klopp has instead opted for Jordan Henderson to partner Fabinho in central defence, with youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips overlooked. 

Although the Reds name a midfield without their club captain, they are able to give Thiago Alcantara his Anfield debut, four months on from his arrival. 

As for United, they make three changes to the side that earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Burnley in midweek. 

Nemanja Matic, Eric Bailly and Edinson Cavani make way to be replaced by Scott McTominay, Victor Lindelof and Fred, meaning Paul Pogba keeps his place after scoring the winner at Turf Moor. 

Anthony Martial is fit to start having been described as an injury doubt in the build-up.

 

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    After guiding Ajax to a third Eredivisie title in four full seasons at the helm, Ten Hag ended his contract in Amsterdam early in order to start work with United ahead of schedule.

    The 52-year-old and his two assistants, Mitchell van der Gaag and Steve McClaren, were present on Sunday as United lost their final match of the season 1-0 to Crystal Palace.

    Ten Hag was in Manchester the following day to be introduced to the media for the first time, with playing philosophy, recruitment and squad personnel among the key topics discussed at his news conference.

    Talk of seasonal targets was surprisingly absent, but in a separate interview with the club's media channels, Ten Hag provided some insight.

    "I said this is the project, to bring Man United back on top, but also we have to accept the current situation we are in," he said.

    "First of all, Man United belong in the Champions League, so that will be the first target."

    United did appear to be in contention – even if generally regarded as an outside bet – for the top four during much of the 2021-22 season.

    But their form suffered badly during the final stages of the season after they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid in March.

    Since losing 1-0 to Atletico at home on March 15, United won just twice in the Premier League and lost five times – among those defeats were 4-0 reverses at the hands of Liverpool and Brighton and Hove Albion.

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    Tomori was preferred to a more experienced option like Tottenham's Eric Dier, who is "definitely in our thinking", Southgate said.

    "We know him," Southgate explained of Dier's absence, but Leicester City's James Maddison, coming off the best scoring season of his Premier League career (12 goals), was snubbed because he remains behind Mason Mount and Phil Foden in the pecking order.

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