Liverpool’s excellent run came to an end a fortnight ago as they were beaten 2-1 at home by Manchester United in the Premier League.
Brendan Rodgers’ side absolutely cannot afford to lose this weekend if they’re to keep their UEFA Champions League hopes alive, whilst they really need a win. The Reds are five points behind Manchester United who sit in fourth place whilst Arsenal have a nice six-point cushion between them and Liverpool.
Arsenal are the form team in the Premier League on a six-game winning streak and start the weekend only one point behind Manchester City in the race for second place.
Mathieu Debuchy is a couple of weeks away from making his return and remains the only defender absent from Arsène Wenger’s squad.
Jack Wilshere is an outside chance to make the bench whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been ruled out for this game, but could be back to face Burnley next weekend. Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby remain sidelined.
Arsène Wenger hopes to have Danny Welbeck available after the striker picked up a knee injury in the final 10 minutes of England’s 4-0 win over Lithuania last Friday.
It looked pretty grim for Brendan Rodgers’ side last week according to newspaper reports but news on the injury front has improved a lot since then.
The Liverpool medical team believe Daniel Sturridge will be fit to feature, whilst Simon Mignolet will be available despite initial fears he’d picked up a serious ankle injury versus Manchester United.
Raheem Sterling is available and it appears Adam Lallana should be too after the duo pulled out of England’s friendly in Italy on Tuesday. Jordon Ibe is still out though.
Defender Martin Škrtel and captain Steven Gerrard both start their three-match bans this weekend. Joe Allen will face competition from Lucas for a place in the midfield though as the Brazilian has recovered from his groin injury.
One interesting choice will be who partners Laurent Koscielny. Per Mertesacker has the experience but we think his lack of pace versus the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho will lead to Wenger picking Gabriel Paulista instead. Alexis Sánchez didn’t go to Iran with his national teammates but did play the full 90 minutes at the Emirates versus Brazil on Sunday. The former Barcelona man has looked in need of a rest recently and perhaps the international break will have done him good with no midweek action or travelling. He could be back on the right this weekend, although faces competition from Theo Walcott and maybe Danny Welbeck.
Kolo Touré appears to be the most-likely replacement for Martin Škrtel in the middle of the Liverpool defence but Rodgers does have Dejan Lovren available too. Either way, on paper, they look a whole lot weaker without their Slovakian. Lucas could push Joe Allen for a starting spot but we think the Welshman will continue having formed a good partnership with Jordan Henderson in recent weeks. Although their performance versus Manchester United has certain left the manager with something to ponder. Only the fitness of the attacking three could prevent them starting this weekend.
Olivier Giroud vs Kolo Touré
Arsenal’s striker has been in fine form of late having scored in each of his last five Premier League appearances and with eight goals in his last eight league starts. Liverpool without their first choice centre-back, and although they’ve been keeping quite a few clean sheets of late, they’ve not always looked too comfortable. Arsenal have an excellent attacking unit and are on fire of late – we expect Olivier Giroud to see his fair share of chances in this one.
Santi Cazorla vs Joe Allen
Juan Mata and co ran the Liverpool midfield wild in their last game and Santi Cazorla has the ability to do just the same if Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson and going to back off and let the Spaniard play. Arsenal have a number of playmakers in this team but we think it’ll be Cazorla pulling the strings, able to feed the likes of Giroud, Alexis Sánchez, Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey.
Philippe Coutinho vs Héctor Bellerín
Liverpool’s Brazilian caused the Arsenal makeshift defence problems in scoring during the 2-2 draw at Anfield between these sides back in December. We’ve seen Monaco recently hurt Arsenal on the counter-attack and Liverpool have the ability to do just the same if the Gunners haven’t learned their lessons since. Philippe Coutinho is good at picking the ball up from deep and running at defenders, creating opportunities for both he and his teammates. The pace of Raheem Sterling on the right should be a good threat but Liverpool may be at their best going forward down the left.
6% – Liverpool have kept just one clean sheet in their last 18 Premier League matches versus Arsenal.
8 – There have been eight goals scored in the 90th minute and beyond in the last 12 matches between these two.
559 – Liverpool have gone nine hours and 19 minutes since their last conceded a goal in an away Premier League fixture.
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