Wednesday 13th January – 20:00 – Anfield
League leaders Arsenal will be looking to cement their place at the top of the table when they visit Liverpool on Wednesday in the first set of Premier League midweek fixtures since March. The Gunners have won five of their last six league games to overtake Leicester City at the summit, whilst they also progressed to the FA Cup Fourth Round at the weekend with a 3-1 win over Sunderland as they aim to win the competition for the third year in a row. Liverpool meanwhile fielded a team of youngsters in their tie against League Two side Exeter City and were nearly embarrassingly beaten before a late equaliser from Brad Smith took it to a replay. The Reds are also stuttering in the league as Jurgen Klopp suffers his first ‘blip’ in charge – they’ve won just twice in six games and currently sit in eighth, six points off the top four. This fixture has produced some classics in the past, and under the lights at Anfield, we should be in for even more entertainment in a big game for both sides.
- The Reds’ defensive options have been bolstered by the return to fitness of Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure, and the loan signing of Steven Caulker from QPR.
- James Milner (calf), Jordon Ibe (hamstring) and Jordan Henderson (foot) could all be back in Klopp’s squad after the German made several changes at Exeter.
- However, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Philippe Coutinho, Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge are all ruled out with hamstring problems, and Joe Gomez and Danny Ings are missing with long-term knee problems.
- Arsene Wenger is set to recall Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker after resting them against Sunderland in the FA Cup.
- Alexis Sanchez (hamstring) is not yet fit enough to return, while Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Danny Welbeck (all knee) and Jack Wilshere (leg) remain out.
- Tomas Rosicky is back in training after a knee injury but is very unlikely to feature, whilst back-up goalkeeper David Ospina is a doubt with a groin injury.
The Key Battle: Lucas Leiva vs Mesut Ozil
The definition of unsung, Lucas Leiva has performed an integral role for Liverpool over the last few seasons as the only out-and-out holding midfielder in their squad. Even the physically imposing Emre Can likes to venture forward – but the tough-tackling Brazilian is more than happy marshalling the pocket just in front of the back four.
He’s certainly impressed this season, averaging the most tackles per match of any Premier League player at a whopping 4.8. But keeping a leash on Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, in contrast, the most potent creator in the Premier League this term, will require much more than simply ball-winning aggression.
Indeed, the German international is finally providing the level of output you’d expect from a club-record £42.5million signing, racking up an incredible three goals and 16 assists in 19 league appearances this season whilst averaging a division-highest 4.4 created chances per match.
The 27-year-old’s performance levels have reached the realms of unplayable over the last few months, so Lucas Leiva will certainly require the assistance of those joining him in Liverpool’s engine room to keep Ozil quiet. [Football Fancast]
Liverpool wins = 83 / Arsenal wins = 78 / Draws = 58
*According to wwww.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool (24th August 2015)
Liverpool maintained their unbeaten start to the Premier League season as they played out a thrilling goalless draw with Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. In a game littered with chances, brilliant goalkeeping and defensive mistakes, it was almost beyond belief that neither side could carve out a victory and deliver an early psychological blow among the contenders at the top of the table. Liverpool dominated the first half but found Petr Cech in magnificent form as the former Chelsea goalkeeper saved miraculously from Christian Benteke and turned Philippe Coutinho’s shot on to a post. Coutinho also struck the bar in the third minute – and while Arsenal’s opportunities were few, they were furious that Aaron Ramsey’s early strike was ruled out for offside. Arsenal regrouped and dominated much of the second half, Alexis Sanchez hitting the post and Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet producing a fine reflex save from Olivier Giroud. [BBC]
Jurgen Klopp: “Arsenal and Arsene have their own style; it’s possession football, so it’s clear that if we want to play the same way we will be without a chance because they’ve been doing it for longer. Arsenal are not only a good possession team, that’s the problem, they have good counter-attacks too and that’s what you have to be aware of.”
Arsene Wenger: “Every time we go to Anfield, we face a team who is up for it. It’s always a ferocious battle, no matter who the manager is. They had a very strong manager before (Brendan Rodgers), they have a very strong one now and Klopp has the personality to do well there.”
The Referee – Mike Jones
- Last Premier League game: West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Newcastle United (28th December 2015) – 0 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Liverpool game: Liverpool 1-0 Bournemouth (28th October 2015) – 2 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Arsenal game: Watford 0-3 Arsenal (17th October 2015) – 3 yellow cards, 0 red cards
Stat of the Match
There have been 35 goals scored in the last nine league meetings at Anfield.
Where Can I Watch It?
BT Sport 1 are showing the game live from 7:15pm on Merseyside, with kick-off 45 minutes later. Highlights will then be on BBC One’s Match of the Day on Wednesday evening at 10:45pm.
My Prediction: Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal
Despite some key players set to return for Liverpool, I still think that the Reds will lose to in-form Arsenal, but it will be entertaining, with the Reds perhaps taking the lead through Christian Benteke. But there’s superior attacking quality in the Gunner’s squad, and I think goals from Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott will win the game for the league leaders.