The Super Sunday game is being billed as the biggest Liverpool-United clash for many years, with the visitors currently top and three points clear of the champions.
It’s a position nobody could have predicted when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side lost at home to Arsenal in November and dropped to 15th.
Roberto Firmino has billed Manchester United as Liverpool’s main title challengers this season
The Red Devils (above) go into Sunday’s clash with Liverpool at Anfield as the league leaders
Firmino, however, has refused to be fazed by United’s revival, even though his side finished 36 points above them last season and could hardly have expected them to emerge as such a serious contender.
The Liverpool forward said: ‘It’s clear that Manchester United are having a great campaign, perhaps their best for many years. But nothing surprises me because it is a great club and this is always a special game.
‘Right now, you have to say they are our main rival in the title race and that is why we have to beat them and remind them we are champions.
‘These are the games that any professional wants to play in and the ones you want to win. It would hurt our fans a lot if we lost, I know that is true, but I promise you that nothing other than winning enters our heads.’
Klopp’s Liverpool have been inconsistent this season and have even struggled in front of goal
This will be the 205th clash between the two sides, United leading the way with 80 wins to Liverpool’s 67. But there are two other stats which underline why this year’s fixture, with United finally looking like title contenders for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, is so important.
United pride themselves on being the most successful club in England, with 20 league titles compared to Liverpool’s 19 and 66 trophies in all to 65 for the Merseyside club.
Both those records are on the line during this campaign, adding to the feeling that victory at Anfield could knock Liverpool back off their perch — just as Sir Alex promised to do when he first arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 and Liverpool led the title count by 16 to 7.
Brazilian international Firmino, 29, understands the history, having been at Liverpool since 2015, but wants focus to be on the present day, saying: ‘We cannot care about those kinds of statistics right now. All we care about is winning and going level at the top of the table.
Firmino (left) insists he is not focused on the history between the derby – only the title charge
‘This is a special game every year because it is a classic of English football. This time, I agree, it is even more special but only because they are three points ahead of us and if we win then we catch them and continue our fight for the title.
‘We know it will be a complicated race with a lot of struggles along the way but we still believe we can finish it as champions for the second time in a row and that is what we intend to do.’
Firmino’s manager Jurgen Klopp is enjoying being the chaser again as United face Liverpool as Premier League leaders for the first time since 2013.
Klopp, who made his name in Germany helping Borussia Dortmund overthrow Bayern Munich, has had to deal with his side largely being pace-setters over the last two years.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp (right) claims both he and United are under pressure this term
Klopp said: ‘Both are pressure because you either want a bigger lead or to be at the top.
‘I find it easier to be the hunter, the chaser, the challenger if you like — maybe because I haven’t been in the other situation as often in my life.
‘My players obviously deal with both situations pretty well so far and that is fine. To see how we deal with it against United, you have to watch the game.’
Liverpool have been inconsistent this season, putting seven past Crystal Palace but failing to beat Fulham, West Brom or Newcastle, and losing at Southampton when they had only one shot on target.
‘Of course we didn’t create enough but we can’t just get wild in front of their goal,’ said Klopp.
‘It needs to be balanced but, again, my trust in these boys is massive. I know they want me to give them the right information.
‘You don’t win the title just because you are Manchester United or Liverpool but because you are the best side in that specific season.’
Original article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-9155493/Roberto-Firmino-claims-Manchester-United-Liverpools-biggest-title-rivals-ahead-derby.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490