Erik ten Hag is sweating on the fitness of a few key players ahead of Sunday’s highly-awaited Premier League clash with Liverpool at Anfield.
Luke Shaw missed Wednesday’s FA Cup tie with West Ham, although the manager was optimistic he would be available again on Sunday, saying “We hope not too bad; we have to see how it develops until Sunday.” If Shaw doesn’t play, Tyrell Malacia is likely to continue at left back.
Another doubt is Jadon Sancho, who also missed Wednesday’s game with illness. He is rated 50/50 to make it. Ten Hag is likely to provide an update on both players at today’s pre-match press conference.
Anthony Martial is back in training but there is every indication that he will still not be made available for the game. The manager said on Wednesday “I don’t have an expectation about [his return]; let him do his work.
“Several times now, he comes back, and he drops back too quickly. When he is available, then we have an extra option, and a good option, so give him time.”
With David de Gea in goal and Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez likely to be restored in the centre back positions after being rested in the week, another key decision facing the boss is who to play at right back.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot are probably neck-and-neck in the pecking order right now, with Dalot tending to be favoured for more attacking encounters and Wan-Bissaka for more defensive ones.
Given that this is an away tie against tough opposition, we expect Wan-Bissaka to get the nod on that basis.
In central midfield, Casemiro is an automatic starter and will almost certainly be joined by Fred, who is enjoying a purple patch of form. Scott McTominay disappointed against the Hammers and was subbed at half time. Marcel Sabitzer is challenging Fred for his spot but probably has not done quite enough yet to convince the manager.
Up front the nailed-on starters are Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes. This leaves Wout Weghorst, Antony, Alejandro Garnacho and Sancho, if available, fighting for the other two places.
Garnacho was man of the match on Wednesday but on balance, it seems more likely that Ten Hag will start the game with a more aggressive lineup, introducing the Argentinian and/or Sancho from the bench if needed in the second half.
We therefore believe Weghorst and Antony will start the game.
With all that in mind, here is our predicted line-up for Sunday’s classico: