Manchester United - Liverpool preview: Reds desperate to put concerns to bed after first loss
(Picture: Jonny Walsh/VAVEL UK)

Liverpool will be desperate to get back to winning ways when they travel to arch-rivals Manchester United for the first North West derby of the season on Saturday. 

Brendan Rodgers' charges fell to a dejecting 3-0 defeat at home to West Ham United in the final game before the international break, bringing to an end an otherwise promising opening month.

Avoidable defensive mistakes, plus a lack of fluency and incisiveness in the final third saw the Reds fall to defeat to the Hammers at Anfield for the first time in over half a century and the pressure it has consequently piled onto the Northern Irishman's shoulders is undeniable. 

Mistakes all too frequently seen under Rodgers' tenure were repeated against the Londoners despite another summer of spending and squad building, leaving plenty of questions over the identity of his new-look side and over his job security, as he heads into a game which could help make or break the belief in his abilities.

The clash with United comes at what could be the perfect or even the worst time, with the visitors in desperate need of an uplift as their fixture schedule hots up.

Much like the win at Stoke City and the draw at Arsenal, a good performance against their bitter rivals, and even more importantly a positive result - would go some way to helping Rodgers relieve some of the tension.

But, at the same time, a chastening defeat could make things much harder for Rodgers. There are things that he and his backroom staff have done much better this time around, most notably the early successes of the Reds' new additions - such as Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner - who have brought a lot to the side already, but they quickly need to start gelling further forward.

A lack of goals proved costly last season, and though Daniel Sturridge seems set to return in the coming weeks, Rodgers will be hoping to see his side threatening and more clinical against United - particularly given the money, and faith, placed in their summer signings - Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino - both of whom are expected to start.

With the scrutiny ever increasing, the intensity of such a high-profile fixture will provide a welcome window as to whether this Liverpool side have really progressed from the end of last term.

Team News:

Liverpool are dealing with a number of high-profile absences, including injured captain Jordan Henderson and last season's Player of the Year, Philippe Coutinho - who is suspended. 

The skipper has not featured since a foot injury forced him off after 51 minutes in the 1-0 win over Bournemouth in their first home game and despite responding well to treatment, has not found fitness in time for the short journey across the M62.

Coutinho misses out after being sent off rather contentiously against West Ham last time out. Having received a first yellow for dissent, referee Kevin Friend adjudged the Brazilian's seemingly harmless challenge just minutes into the second-half enough to give him his marching orders.

Adam Lallana is also likely to be out for the Reds, with thigh muscle damage having kept him out of their last two fixtures. The injury also meant he had to exclude himself from England duty, whilst he was not in full training with his team-mates on Thursday.

Central midfielder Joe Allen, who has yet to play a competitive game after picking up a hamstring injury at the end of pre-season, is fighting for fitness but is unlikely to have recovered in time.

Firmino is likely to keep his starting spot whilst Daniel Sturridge, who has recently returned to training, will not be involved, with the game coming too soon for the striker.

Depending on the system that Rodgers opts for, Firmino could flank frontman Benteke with Danny Ings on the opposite side, or the Englishman could partner Benteke up top with Firmino in a No.10 role behind the pair.

Otherwise, the Reds are expected to be largely unchanged - with Dejan Lovren likely to keep his place despite his poor individual performance last time out. 

Louis van Gaal is dealing with very few injuries, with Michael Carrick the only likely absence, whilst Phil Jones is once again available after recovering from mild thrombosis, as is Marcos Rojo

David de Gea is likely to return to the starting line-up over Sergio Romero for the hosts. The Spaniard signed a new four-year deal with the club after his deadline day move to Real Madrid dramatically fell through, whilst Anthony Martial could make his United debut, though probably from the bench.

Head-to-head:

At Old Trafford: Manchester United - 41 wins, Draws - 25, Liverpool - 16 wins.

At Anfield: Liverpool - 39 wins, Draws - 19, Manchester United - 24 wins.

Overall: Manchester United - 77 wins, Draws - 51, Liverpool - 64 wins.

Last meeting: Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United - Premier League, 22nd March 2015.

Recent league form:

Manchester United: WWDL

Liverpool: WWDL

Match facts:

Liverpool have won just one of their last seven away games in the league, whilst United have only lost one of their last 10 home games in the Premier League.

Liverpool have lost five of their last seven league games against United, whilst they have only won one of their last eight games at Old Trafford in all competitions.

Manchester United vs. Liverpool is the most played fixture in Premier League history, with Saturday's game the 47th meeting since 1992.

Not since March 2000 has there been a draw between the two sides at Old Trafford. In that time they have contested 17 fixtures in all competitions. 

The fixture has produced only less red cards than the Merseyside Derby, with 16 slightly dwarved by the 20 produced in games between Everton and Liverpool.

Christian Benteke has scored in his last two games against the Red Devils, though both came whilst an Aston Villa player.

Liverpool have conceded three Juan Mata goals in two games last term.

Brendan Rodgers' side have already matched last season's points total away from home (one point) against the top-four teams (Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United) this season.

Both sides have kept three clean sheets in four games this season.

Liverpool could match an undesirable stat of failing to score in three consecutive league games for the first time since February-March 2005 if they don't hit the back of the net on Saturday.

Liverpool have hit the woodwork five times already so far this season - more than any other side.

Man in the middle:

Michael Oliver is the man in charge of the 193rd meeting between Liverpool and United, having given out 20 yellow cards and three reds in just four games so far this season.

Oliver has previously taken charge of 15 games involving the Reds, the last of which was a 0-0 draw at Arsenal last month - as he produced five bookings in total. 

The 30-year-old has dished out a total of 25 yellow cards and one dismissal in the 15 games he's officiated involving the Merseyside club, whilst he has never overseen them win away from home in five attempts.

Last season, he earned criticism after he gave two red cards to United players - with Chris Smalling and Angel Di Maria sent off in defeats to Manchester City and Arsenal, with Van Gaal branding the former a "stupid" decision.

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