EPL: Liverpool host Red Devils, Arsenal travel to Stoke

Despite starkly contrasting playing philosophies, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and his Manchester United counterpart Louis van Gaal are grappling with similar problems ahead of their meeting at Anfield on Sunday. While Klopp espouses hard-running, high-pressing, "heavy metal" football, Van Gaal is all about patient ball retention, but both men are yet to find a consistent formula for scoring goals.

Manchester United's Anthony Martial scored on his debut in the corresponding fixture against Liverpool in September.   -  AP

Despite starkly contrasting playing philosophies, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and his Manchester United counterpart Louis van Gaal are grappling with similar problems ahead of their meeting at Anfield on Sunday. While Klopp espouses hard-running, high-pressing, “heavy metal” football, Van Gaal is all about patient ball retention, but both men are yet to find a consistent formula for scoring goals.

Liverpool's return of 22 goals from their first 20 league games this season was the worst in their history, while United have not scored so few goals at this stage of a season (27) since the 1992-93 campaign.

When the two teams do manage to make it happen up front, problems arise elsewhere. Both sides scored three goals in mid-week, but both also let three in at the other end - Liverpool at home to Arsenal on Wednesday, United away to Newcastle United the night before.

Liverpool at least had the satisfaction of a last-minute equaliser against Arsenal, Welsh midfielder Joe Allen slamming home a volley that left Klopp's men five points below the Champions League places in ninth place. United are three points better off in sixth place, but they were on the wrong end of a 90th-minute goal at Newcastle, Paul Dummett equalising at the death after the visitors had led 2-0 and 3-2.

“It's about finding that balance so we're not giving away these sloppy goals just before half-time and just before the final whistle,” said United centre-back Chris Smalling, echoing a theme picked up by captain Wayne Rooney. “They're key times in the game and we need to make sure we're switched on.”

United won 2-1 on their last trip to Anfield in March, which came in the middle of a six-game winning streak that suggested Van Gaal had finally settled on a winning strategy after seven months of tinkering. But United won only one of their last six league matches and 10 months on they continue to toil, having won only two of their last 11 games in all competitions.

Klopp is up against United for the first time as Liverpool manager and he is relishing the occasion, describing showdowns between major rivals as “the salt in the soup”. The German has also been highlighting the importance of balance, but in his case he was referring to emotional factors.

Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was sent off just 38 seconds after coming on in last season's equivalent fixture, for a crude stamp on Ander Herrera, and Klopp has urged his players to keep their heads.

“You can be over-motivated, that's possible,” he told his pre-match press conference. “You don't have to think too much about motivation in games like this because everybody knows about the importance. But the balance is always the most important thing. In football everything is about timing and the right thing in the right moment.”

With Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel still sidelined by hamstring problems, Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho will continue in central defence for Liverpool. Christian Benteke has scored in his last three league appearances against United, but with Roberto Firmino having netted a classy double against Arsenal the Belgian striker could find himself on the bench again.

Van Gaal has ruled out central midfield pair Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick through injury.

Wenger looking for Stoke revenge

Arsene Wenger returns to Stoke City's Britannia Stadium this weekend for the first time since he was forced to endure one of the lowest points of his 20-year reign as Arsenal manager.

The visit in December 2014 ended with Wenger and his players forced to run a gauntlet of angry Arsenal fans as they boarded a train back to London following a 3-2 defeat that left the Gunners in sixth place, 13 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

Those critical voices had largely been silenced by last May after a dramatic improvement during the second half of the season that was capped by the FA Cup triumph. And having sustained that progress, Wenger's side head into the latest round of matches positioned at the head of the table and with a growing belief they can lift the Premier League title.

Wenger believes the challenge posed by Mark Hughes's side will be equal to the one they faced at Anfield.

“It is a similar test to Liverpool where on our side we need the same intensity again four days later and the same desire and focus again,” the veteran manager said. “What we have learnt in this Premier League? You think 'How many surprises we have seen today? That will not happen again'. The week after it happened again, and again and again, since the start of the season. That shows the consistency of your focus, the consistency of your determination, will certainly play a big part in the outcome of this league.”

Alexis Sanchez is likely to return to the squad after finally recovering from a hamstring injury and new signing Mohamed Elneny could feature after arriving from Basel. “Elneny is available for selection, I haven't decided yet (on whether to play him),” said Wenger. “I have to see how everyone has recovered. Elneny is a possibility to be in the squad for Sunday.”

While he can expect an easier ride from his own supporters, Wenger is expected to again be targeted by Stoke's fans after he refused to leave his dugout during last season's meeting. The Frenchman claimed the move was designed to take the heat out of the abuse he traditionally receives in the Potteries, dating back to his criticism of Tony Pulis's Stoke teams.

However, it backfired last season as supporters directed more vitriol at Wenger, and Stoke manager Hughes does not believe the home fans will be deterred. “That's how it is. The crowd quite like, for want of a better word, a bit of baiting of Arsene at times. Sometimes he's reacted, other times he hasn't,” Hughes said. “It's all part of the game, the spectacle and it all adds to the mix.”

Record signing Xherdan Shaqiri will miss out for Stoke with a hamstring injury. Geoff Cameron and Marc Muniesa are also sidelined but Stephen Ireland and Phil Bardsley could return.