Manchester United and Liverpool meet for only the second time in WSL history this weekend, still a new branch of one of world football’s most fierce rivalries.
United’s first official game upon reforming in 2018 was against Liverpool in the Continental Cup, which was decided by a late Lizzie Arnott goal in favour of the Red Devils. A year later, they met in the early stages of the 2019/20 WSL season, with United again prevailing to secure what was actually their first ever top flight win – Liverpool ended that curtailed season relegated.
The Merseysiders are now back in the WSL after securing promotion and have held steady so far to stay eight points above the relegation zone. They come into this one unbeaten in three league games after previously losing five straight in the autumn.
But United have kicked on even more in the intervening years and enjoyed an excellent first half of the season to sit third as the league returns from the winter break. Marc Skinner’s team took seven points from nine in their final three games against Arsenal, Aston Villa and Manchester City before Christmas, all of which were played in front of crowds numbering tens of thounands.
When is kick off? Sunday 15 January, 14:05 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Leigh Sports Village
TV channel/live stream? BBC One/iPlayer (UK), FA Player (international)
What time does coverage start in the UK? 13:50 (GMT)
Referee? Kirsty Dowle
Aoife Mannion is set to be on the bench following her return to action from an ACL injury in a recent mid-season friendly against Birkirkara in Malta.
Newly crowned Barclays WSL December player of the month Leah Galton is a slight doubt with a back problem. She didn’t make the trip to Malta but began running on grass on Wednesday, with Skinner still hopeful she could be available.
Senior centre back Gilly Flaherty announced her retirement from professional football this week, citing the passing of her father shortly before Christmas as the reason she is hanging up her boots: “We shared our love of football and playing-wise I don’t want to carry on without him by my side.”
There could be a second Liverpool debut for the returning Gemma Bonner, signed from Racing Louisville after leaving the Reds for Manchester City in 2018. Fellow new arrival Sofie Lundgaard is also in contention and is expected to strengthen in midfield.
Liverpool have no new injury concerns, with forward Leanne Kiernan still a long-term absentee.
Liverpool showed early on that they must be taken seriously at this level, stunning Chelsea in their first top flight game in more than two years at the start of the season. But they only recently won their first league match since then in a final game before the winter break kicked in.
Matt Beard’s side also went through a patch of struggling to score goals when they lost five straight in the WSL and face a United side that has won nine of their last 10 WSL home games without conceding – in fact, Chelsea are the only visiting team to score a league goal at Leigh Sports Village since November 2021. United also haven’t conceded from a set-piece in the WSL this season.
Going the other way, Liverpool have a better defensive record than any club in the bottomg half of the table, but United have a tendency of scoring first whenever they play – especially at home.
It is also worth noting Liverpool are likely to be a little more rusty. Due to a WSL postponement and the way the Conti Cup fixture list fell, they haven’t played competitively since 7 December, compared to United’s most recent competitive game coming 11 days more recently on 18 December.
Prediction: Man Utd 2-0 Liverpool
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