Edinson Cavani versus Virgil van Dijk would have been a titanic duel to look forward to this weekend.
Without him, Liverpool are a far less commanding force defensively and they are lacking depth.
Joe Gomez is also out with an injury, while Joel Matip is battling to be fit, The Mail report, missing training yesterday.
Even if Matip is passed fit to play, he is unlikely to be at 100 per cent.
Liverpool may be pressed into starting midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson at centre-back.
Fabinho has done well in this role to be fair on and off over the past few months, but he has usually had an actual defender alongside him.
Cavani is the perfect player to take advantage
If there is one criticism of the strikeforce of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood which plundered more than 60 goals combined last season, it is that they lack traditional centre-forward qualities.
Cavani’s arrival was the perfect tonic to mix up United’s attack. He is direct, combative, and never lets defenders rest.
Martial’s positioning and movement is not always strong. Sometimes it is, but he has a tendency to drop wide or deep and leave gap in the penalty area where United need a forward to be asking questions of the defenders.
Cavani’s runs on and off the ball are excellent and he has shown this season already that he is capable of changing games, most recently scoring a vital goal in Merseyside in the Carabao Cup quarter-final win over Everton.
After a three-game ban Cavani is motivated to kick on and this type of derby with Liverpool is the type of match which suits him perfectly.
Liverpool’s patched up defence might fancy their chances against Martial. They will be fearful of Cavani and the threat he has to offer, and that gives United such an edge in attack, and potentially opens up space for others too.
The home side won’t be a pushover at Anfield by any stretch, and even their makeshift defence can do a job against most sides. But Cavani is not ‘most strikers’, he is one of the world’s most prolific forwards over the past decade and has plenty to offer.
His former international teammate Diego Forlan became a Red Devils cult hero with a couple of goals at Anfield and this is a great chance for Cavani to do the same. With Liverpool’s defensive uncertainty, he may not get a better opportunity.
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