Will Man Utd star Romelu Lukaku get the better of Liverpool’s Joel Matip on Saturday? Matt Cheetham checks the stats…
The Premier League returns in emphatic fashion on Saturday lunchtime with a heavyweight clash between Liverpool and Manchester United, live on Sky Sports Premier League.
For the home side to find success, Liverpool’s inconsistent defence, led by Joel Matip, must find a way of containing a red-hot Romelu Lukaku.
Liverpool vs Man Utd
Matip is the only regular starter in Liverpool’s defence to have been signed by Jurgen Klopp, which is peculiar given the way the manager’s attacking system can often expose his defenders. The Cameroon international is better suited to cope with this approach than many of his colleagues, and plays an important role.
He is particularly skilled in one-on-one situations, which is an essential trait for any defender playing under Klopp. He was dribbled past just six times last season, while every other Liverpool player to make 40 or more tackles was beaten at least three times as much.
Joel Matip was beaten just six times last season
Another strong part of Matip’s game is his ability to premeditate attacking movement. While it was not on show for Liverpool’s recent goal conceded against Newcastle, he is often able to read forwards and react ahead of the pass, highlighted by his high interception count (19) – Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal is the only Premier League defender with more this season.
Carra: Liverpool must be streetwise
Matip leads the way as Liverpool’s busiest defender by some margin, compiling a larger combined total of tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocks per 90 minutes – a return which will need to swell further to suppress Lukaku.
Liverpool’s most active defenders – 2017/18 (min 300 PL mins)
PlayerDefensive actions per 90Joel Matip8.4Joe Gomez8.0Dejan Lovren7.2Alberto Moreno6.2
The Belgium international has been in rampant form since moving to Old Trafford this summer. He’s the division’s top scorer with seven goals, and despite boasting a talented list of attacking luminaries, no Manchester United striker has scored more Premier League goals in his first seven games for the club.
Man Utd players – most goals in first seven PL games
Player Goals scored Games scored in Romelu Lukaku76 Andy Cole73 Louis Saha65 Robin van Persie53 Dwight Yorke54
Lukaku’s next big test
Romelu Lukaku has answered every question so far but the visit to Liverpool is his next test. Can he do it at a top-six rival?
Unsurprisingly, Lukaku’s attacking stats rank alongside the best this season in many categories. Tottenham’s Harry Kane is the only player to test opposing goalkeepers more often, while Kane and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero are the only strikers with more touches in the opposition’s box.
Liverpool v Manchester Utd
Lukaku v PL’s best attackers – 2017/18
Romelu LukakuPL rankShots on target152ndShots in box252ndChance conversion22.6%6thShooting accuracy65%4thTouches in opp. box454th
It’s easy to draw conclusions about Lukaku finding another level at his new club, though it’s interesting to note his chance conversion rate is almost identical to his final year at Everton. The Belgium striker still needs around four-and-a-half shots to score, just as he did last season, albeit in a relatively small sample size so far.
Jose: ‘We must be controlled’
Jose Mourinho says his Manchester United players must control their emotions when they face Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday. He also gives a fitness update on Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini.
Jose Mourinho says his Manchester United players must control their emotions when they face Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday
The key to his early success at Old Trafford, therefore, seems to owe more to his supporting cast than any individual growth. Playing in a more attacking team with more creative threats, Lukaku has been presented with far more opportunities to find the net. He’s currently enjoying an increased shot volume of almost 50 per cent per 90 minutes, which – if maintained – should see him surpass last season’s return of 25 Premier League goals.
Has Lukaku improved this season? (stats per 90mins)
2016/172017/18Total shots3.04.4Shots on target1.52.1Shots in box2.23.6Chance conversion22.722.6Touches41.835.1Touches in opp. box5.26.4
Perhaps the only remaining narrative for Lukaku to quash relates to his often inconspicuous presence in bigger games at Everton, further emphasised by his performances against Liverpool. In his last appearance, his only previous game against Matip, he failed to record a single shot in 90 minutes – something he’s done only five times in his last 86 Premier League appearances, twice against Liverpool.
Lukaku v Matip last season
LukakuTouches32Touches in opp. box1Shots0Duels won5/16Possession lost14
In fact, despite averaging an attempt every 27 minutes over the last three seasons, Lukaku’s currently on a remarkable run of no shot in his last 204 minutes played at Anfield. Going back further, he has only managed to test the opposing goalkeeper with a shot on target in two of his last seven appearances against Liverpool.
Lukaku to battle Kane for Golden Boot
Jan Vertonghen says Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane will battle it out for this season’s Golden Boot and that it’s difficult to say who is the better of the two. Warning: This video contains flash photography.
Jan Vertonghen says Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane will battle it out for this season’s Golden Boot Warning: This video contains flash photography.
This may encourage Matip ahead of Saturday, but Lukaku’s new surroundings make him far more of a factor in the final third than he’s previously been at Anfield.
His new club are currently on a six-match unbeaten run against Liverpool, and with a more constant supply of chances coming his way, Lukaku will be confident of playing a key role in extending that recent streak.