Arsenal’s Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez (2R) is tackled by Liverpool’s Croatian defender Dejan Lovren during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium in London on August 14, 2016. Lee MILLS / AFP
The very busy festive fixture period in England begins tonight in London with a heavyweight clash when Arsenal hosts Liverpool at the Emirates. The Gunners will be looking for revenge, as well as a psychological advantage in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League by defeating Liverpool in this fixture. With the title seemingly out of the reach of both clubs due to Manchester City’s relentless march towards that direction, this game is huge for both teams in their quest for a Champions League qualification spots.
The Gunners trail the fourth-placed Reds by a point and will still be upset about the 4-0 hammering they received at Anfield in August. However, they haven’t been too impressive in the recent games they’ve played. It’s been like a throw-back to the days of the ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ chant as they’ve been able to barely scrape 1-nil wins against Newcastle and West Ham in their last two games, which fans would have expected more comfortable wins, but the good thing is that those results ended a run of three matches without a win ahead of an important period of the season. One assignment that the Gunners will have to take seriously will be how to contain Liverpool’s attacking quartet of Saido Mane, Mo Salah, Roberto Firminho and Phillipe Coutinho.
Arsenal were totally destroyed by the pace and ingenuity of these players the last time these teams met and they will have to find a way to keep them at bay. The good thing is that they have improved defensively, keeping six clean sheets from their last eight matches in all competitions. Going forward, the Gunners also need to work on their goal-scoring as they continue to create a whole host of clear-cut opportunities, but aren’t lethal enough to finish them. Alexis Sanchez seems to have checked out already and hasn’t scored in 355 minutes of football, while Olivier Giroud is out injured and Alexandre Lacazette hasn’t scored in his last two starts.
Liverpool crushed Bournemouth 4-nil last weekend and that was not an easy thing to do as it was the first time in fifteen matches that the Cherries will be conceding more two goals in a game. They had looked out of sorts before then as they played back to back frustrating draws against Everton and West Bromwich Albion in games they were supposed to win. Klopp must contend with having to play four games in eleven days, which will likely mean a lot of squad rotation, but with bottom-of-the-table Swansea City coming up next on Tuesday, he will definitely try to field his best players at the Emirates.
Saido Mane, who hasn’t been starting as much as he would have liked recently, will hope to start against the Gunners to complete the deadly attacking quartet of Coutinho, Salah, Firminho and Sane. Former Gunner Oxlade-Chamberlain has been praised by his manager for his recent performances and will be eager to face his old club and show them what they are missing.
Arsene Wenger will have mixed feelings as regards the fitness of some of his players; Shkodran Mustafi is expected to return to starting line-up tonight, while Olivier Giroud will miss this game with a hamstring injury. For Liverpool, Joel Matip returned to training on Tuesday and might feature in this game, while Daniel Sturridge might miss out due to illness. This game is a perfect way to start the footballing festivities that this period will bring in the EPL and we can’t wait to relish them.