Liverpool host Arsenal in the battle for the top-four tomorrow in the pick of the weekend’s fixtures. The Reds will be hoping to recover from a damaging 3-1 defeat last Monday night at Leicester, whilst the visitors will experience a very different venue to their last game when they were away at non-league Sutton United. Don’t expect to see Loris Karius munching on a pie from the Liverpool bench.
A game typically full of goals over the last few seasons, with neither side particularly adept at keeping clean sheets, the game promises to be an entertaining watch under the lights at Anfield.
Jordan Henderson, sorely missed whenever he is missing for the home team, is definitely out through injury, which is a huge blow. Daniel Sturridge, predictably, is too, having first been ill and then picked up a hip problem during his recovery.
Liverpool, then, are likely to play a very similar team to the one which struggled against the reigning champions in their last match, with few other options to consider, although the performance can surely not be as abject again. Liverpool will surely show a reaction.
This is the type of game that Liverpool relish, and whilst it will be a challenge, many supporters are more concerned with the visit of Burnley to come next week, such is Liverpool’s record against lower-lying sides. Arsenal is a big game, and Liverpool tend to perform well when that is the case, as they proved against Tottenham three weeks ago.
Arsenal, despite the seemingly constant discussion over the future of Arsene Wenger, and the continual fallout between sections of supporters over the issue, bring a strong team to Merseyside, and pose a significant threat. Alexis Sanchez in particular is one of the best in the country at the moment, and is capable of winning a game on his own.
In years gone by, the North London club have struggled in the bigger games, but in more recent times have managed some notable results, not least a 3-0 victory at home to Chelsea earlier in the season which prompted Antonio Conte to change his formation, leading to them going on a superb run.
Liverpool perhaps go into the game as slight favourites due to home advantage, but Jurgen Klopp is under no illusions as to how difficult this game will be.
“No game against a top team has been easy, not one of them,” he explained.
“We need to bounce back. We need to keep the points at Anfield. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since the last game (against Arsenal, which Liverpool won 4-3 at the Emirates). We have to prove [ourselves] again”.
Liverpool’s physicality is something that has come under scrutiny over the last few weeks, with many people suggesting they are ‘too nice’, but Klopp was keen to address that too.
“We ran 121 km [in the Leicester game], but had a really bad game,” he began.
“In my opinion, giving away fouls isn’t being physical. Being harder than is allowed doesn’t make sense. In the end, we have to accept that is didn’t work against Leicester. If you have that many players not on their usual level, each Premier League game will be difficult. We lost because of our performance”.
A final decision will be made on Dejan Lovren before the game, but he has been training and is likely to come back into the team if at all possible given Lucas’ struggles last time out. With other experienced players missing, it would be a big blow for him not to make it.
Not for the first time this season, Liverpool find themselves in a position where only a win would be satisfactory. Victory over a close rival for the top four spots could potentially kick-start their season once again, and make the final run-in meaningful, but a loss would put them considerably adrift with eleven game to go.
WHEN DOES THE GAME KICK OFF?
The match starts at 17:30 GMT and is live on BT Sport 1.
Supporters travelling to the game are advised to plan their journeys carefully due to Lime Street Station being closed completely until Thursday 9th March following the collapse of a wall onto the tracks this week. More information can be found on the Network Rail website.
WHO IS THE REFEREE?
Bobby Madley – the 31-year-old from Wakefield is relatively new to the Premier League, having first officiated in the top-flight in 2013. He was the referee for the Championship game between Brighton and Newcastle last time out and refereed in League One only a month ago, but has been mainly based in the Premier League throughout the season.
He has taken charge of Liverpool twice so far this season, the 1-1 draw with Tottenham at White Hart Lane, and the dramatic 4-3 defeat away at Bournemouth.
Madley was the referee for Arsenal’s FA Cup Third Round victory over Preston and also saw them beat Southampton 2-1 at home in September in the only league game he has officiated involving the Gunners up to now.
In the last three matches between Liverpool and Arsenal, an average of 5.3 goals have been scored per game (5-1 to Liverpool in February 2014, 2-2 in December the same year, and most recently 3-3 thirteen months ago).
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Can, Lallana, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs; Xhaka, Coquelin; Iwobi, Ozil, Walcott; Sanchez
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