Monday 24th August – 20:00 – Emirates Stadium
Arsenal and Liverpool will renew one of the Premier League’s greatest rivalries as the pair meet on Monday night. The Gunners go in search of their first victory at home following their opening-day defeat to West Ham at the Emirates Stadium. They atoned for that result with a morale-boosting victory across London at Crystal Palace. Liverpool, meanwhile, head to North London as one of the four teams to start the new season with two consecutive victories. The Reds followed their late 1-0 victory at Stoke with a win by the same scoreline over newly-promoted Bournemouth at Anfield. This game, however, will really test how much better Brendan Rodgers’ side are than last season, as well as providing Arsenal with a first league challenge of the campaign. If they do win, Liverpool will move to joint top, whilst the Gunners can get as high as fourth with victory.
- Arsene Wenger is likely to keep faith with the team that sealed Arsenal’s first win of the season at Crystal Palace last weekend.
- Mathieu Flamini is a doubt with an ankle problem while Danny Welbeck is still weeks off a return to training.
- Tomas Rosicky remains a long term absentee after knee surgery, whilst Jack Wilshere continues his recovery from a hairline fracture to his left fibula, and is not expected back until after the international break.
- Captain Jordan Henderson is a major doubt after limping off against Bournemouth with a foot problem.
- Emre Can is fit and ready to step into midfield should Brendan Rodgers be forced into making a change.
- The return of midfielder Joe Allen (hamstring) remains uncertain while striker Daniel Sturridge continues to recover from hip surgery and defender Jon Flanagan (knee) is out until December.
The Key Battle: Laurent Koscielny vs Christian Benteke
With Arsenal having signed just Petr Cech this summer, many are saying that the Gunners still need to strengthen, with central defence one of the main areas they need to do so in. There’s little cover for Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, and even the Frenchman has looked shaky of late.
The usually reliable 29 year old has been subject to some criticism, with Arsenal conceding three goals in their opening two games, but Arsene Wenger has been quick to defend his player, probably in the hope that his confidence remains high as he prepares to face one of the best strikers in the league.
The man in question is of course Christian Benteke, who got his first Liverpool goal against Bournemouth last week following a £32.5 million move from Aston Villa.
He failed to score against the Gunners last season and lost to them in the FA Cup Final, so will be keen to hit the back of the net at the Emirates and continue towards beating his 2014-15 goal tally of 13. With Daniel Sturridge injured and Mario Balotelli training with the reserves, he’s the man the Reds will be looking to find at every opportunity.
Arsenal wins = 72 / Liverpool wins = 76 / Draws = 51
*According to www.lfconline.com
Last Meeting: Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool (4th April 2015)
Arsenal tightened their grip on a place in the Premier League’s top four while inflicting damage on Liverpool’s Champions League aspirations with a convincing victory at Emirates Stadium. The Gunners set the platform for a vital three points with a devastating burst of three goals in the last eight minutes of the first half from Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Raheem Sterling won a late penalty from which Jordan Henderson pulled a goal back, but in reality, this was little other than an afternoon of unrelenting misery for an abject Liverpool. The Reds had Emre Can sent off for two bookable offences before Olivier Giroud delivered the final blow with a spectacular fourth for Arsenal in the closing seconds.
Managers Quotes (New for 2015-16)
Arsene Wenger: “This is a very important game where the result will of course be vital. It’s not a result that will decide our title chances but in our heads we know it’s very important.”
Brendan Rodgers: “We know that we’ve got that ability to scrap and fight as well as play good football. If we can go there and perform like we think we can and keep to our game-plan we’re confident we can get a result.”
The Referee (New for 2015-16) – Michael Oliver
In 2010, Michael Oliver became the youngest-ever referee to take charge of a Premier League game and has gone on to officiate over 100 top flight matches. Last season, he took charge of 39 games in all competitions, handing out 137 yellow cards and six red – including one to Fabio Borini when these two sides met in a 2-2 draw at Anfield last season. So far this campaign, Oliver has shown 10 yellow cards and one red (to Thibaut Courtois) in two Premier League matches.
Stat of the Match
Matches between Liverpool and Arsenal have produced five hat-tricks – more than any other fixture in Premier League history.
Where can I watch it?
Where else would you find Monday Night Football?! That’s right, Sky Sports 1 are showing the game live from 7pm, with kick-off an hour later.
My Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
Liverpool may have won both of their opening games this season, but as aforementioned, a trip to the Emirates Stadium is their toughest challenge yet. The Reds have improved from last season and won’t lose as heavily, scoring through Christian Benteke, but goals from Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey will win it for Arsenal, who know they can’t lose these games if they are to mount a serious title challenge.