Arsenal sit merrily on top with 42 points after 20 laps of the title race. However, the Gunners are yet to pay a visit to a number of difficult opponents: Liverpool, Stoke, Manchester United, Tottenham, Everton, West Ham and, finally, Manchester City.
Liverpool are the first of the aforementioned list but the fixture comes at a pretty good time. They haven’t had the best of campaigns so far even though they are still alive in all three cups. Jürgen Klopp’s arrival has yielded a few impressive results (convincing away victories against Chelsea and Manchester City and a home victory against Leicester respectively) but defeats against Crystal Palace at home and Newcastle away have been a reality check for the Liverpool supporters.
Arsenal have lost just one league game at Anfield since 2007-08. We’ve won three and drawn four while that infamous 5:1 mauling from 2013-14 stands out as the only Liverpool league victory in the respective period.
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It’s the first time I can say our opponents have an even worse injury crisis than us. Martin Škrtel – who scored three goals in our two previous clashes at Anfield – is out as well as Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho, Jordan Henderson, Phillippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi. Even the fact that we will be without Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Alexis Sánchez, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere doesn’t sound too serious.
The real issue this time could be the fact we played our FA Cup clash against Sunderland on Saturday while Liverpool played Exeter on Friday night. Klopp used a lot of youngsters and fringe players against the lower league side while Arsene Wenger had to use first team players like Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Joel Campbell and Hector Bellerin.
Jürgen Klopp is the star man at Liverpool and that says it all about The Reds. The German’s ability to motivate players as well as his famous Gegenpressing have produced more running from Liverpool players (six kilometers per match) but the improvement in terms of points is yet to come. It’s worth noting that Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund had a lot of problems with teams that had conceded possession. It seems that Liverpool have the same issue. That’s why we have to play quick football with a quality transition from defence to attack.
As I have already mentioned, Liverpool have an injury crisis. Their central defence is massacred so they had to make a loan move for Steven Caulker who didn’t impress at Southampton in the first half of the season. Caulker, a former Tottenham player, can cause problems from set-pieces. Things aren’t that much better for Liverpool in other areas of the team either. Jordan Henderson and Phillippe Coutinho leave their midfield relying on James Milner, Emre Can and Lucas Leiva while strikers Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings and Divock Origi are all out.
Still, Liverpool can never be underestimated and Simon Mignolet has already had blinders against us while playing for Sunderland.
Petr Čech is a safe bet for the goalkeeper position. The best Premier League goalkeeper of all time had a great game in the reverse fixture. Hopefully he won’t have to save our bacon tonight.
Hector Bellerin’s impressive performance against Sunderland should be followed with another one against Liverpool. He has scored a goal once against Liverpool but it was last season against Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool.
Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker are likely to start again. They will have to take special care of Benteke who knows how to score against us as he has shown a few times while playing for Aston Villa.
Nacho Monreal will return to the starting eleven after an unimpressive performance from Kieran Gibbs against Sunderland.
Mathieu Flamini is expected to be back. He can be our weakest link when in possession of the ball so he’ll have to release the ball quickly and with precision.
Aaron Ramsey had a good goal wrongly disallowed in the reverse fixture. This time, he will be eager to keep his good form running with a goal.
Mesut Özil managed to get some much needed rest and will be our biggest asset again. The King of Assists can find holes in the home defence so that Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell can exploit them.
Walcott and Campbell are likely to start on the wings with Olivier Giroud as the focal point of our attack. The Frenchman has scored sixteen goals in all competitions this season.
Arsene Wenger is the only manager in the league that has a positive record over Jürgen Klopp from his days at Borussia Dortmund (via skysports.com). Arsene has beaten Klopp three times in six encounters but Wednesday night’s game will be something completely different.
I will go with a 2:1 victory for Arsenal, with goals from Giroud and Ramsey for Arsenal while Benteke will give us a nervy finish with a consolation goal for Liverpool.