After what feels like ages, the Premier League is finally back after the international break. As the clubs gear up for the final push of yet another exhilarating season, it doesn’t get much bigger than when Liverpool take on Arsenal at the Emirates. Liverpool’s Champions League push hinges on this game while Arsenal will be looking to maintain their momentum as they seek yet another top 4 finish. We take a look at some of the key battles that may affect the result.
Olivier Giroud vs Kolo Toure
Since the turn of the year only Arsenal have picked up more points than Liverpool in the league. One of the main reasons behind such a turnaround was that Liverpool shifted to a back three that suited all their players. In the back three the mainstays were Skrtel, Sakho and Emre Can. Skrtel played the role of a sweeper and to be fair it seemed to bring the best out of him. However that Slovakian thug is currently serving a three match suspension for his stamp on Man United keeper David De Gea. It’s upto Brendan Rodgers to decide whether he can go for the obvious replacement in Kolo Toure or re-jig the back three to a traditional back four. It’s likely that Giroud will be facing the Ivorian. As much as I like Kolo, he’s no longer the fort he used to be. He’s lost pace and is error prone. How he deals with Giroud will be interesting. The League’s player of the month is in red hot form and the entire Liverpool defence will have to look out for his flicks and touches outside the box. One of Giroud’s underrated qualities is the timing of his runs. With Ozil and Cazorla behind him Giroud can always rely on their quality and its upto Toure to make sure the Frenchman doesn’t get on the end of a goalscoring move.
Francis Coquelin vs Phillipe Coutinho
What a season (or half a season) both these players are having. Both are contrasting to the extreme, one is a grafter while the other is an artist. Coquelin has been nothing short of inspirational since his return but it is fair to say that he will be up against one of the most dangerous players in the league at the moment. The little Brazilian is on fire and is the current hot shot of the club although Raheem Sterling may have other ideas (Meanwhile, Sturridge is the hot shot of the Liverpool medical centre). Coutinho operates in that gap between the opponent’s midfield and defence threading in passes and initiating attacks. He also drifts to the left wing where he can cut and bend on to the far post(remember Man City at Anfield). Coquelin should stay tight to the Liverpool man and stop him from influencing the game. If Le Coq can overwhelm his counterpart as he’s so often done then Arsenal will have a great chance of winning the game.
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Raheem Sterling vs Liverpool
We need no introduction to all these contract sagas; Arsenal fans have had far too much experience for our liking. The saga has intensified as Arsenal have been linked with Sterling and are reportedly planning to bid for him in the summer if he doesn’t renew his contract. No, not 40 million and one pounds. The saga took another twist when the player went public about his intentions and Liverpool are understandably unhappy with Sterling. The last thing Liverpool needed was another issue coming into the game and what looked like a remarkable recovery may soon turn into an undesirable slump.
The game is a must win for the Scousers, Liverpool’s record at Anfield is miserable, they have won only once at the Emirates. Arsenal on the other hand are yet to beat a so called big club at home. The pressure is on, who will come out top. I very much hope it’s the Gunners.