On Sunday afternoon, all eyes will be on the Emirates for what looks to be an exciting Premier League match as third-place Arsenal takes on leaders Liverpool for the third time in as many months.
Midweek saw both teams improve their championship chances: the Gunners defeated Nottingham Forest 2-1 in a tight match, while Jurgen Klopp’s ruthless crop crushed Chelsea 4-1.
Arsenal suffered for more than an hour against a compact Reds rearguard during their unwelcome return to their old attacking ways during Tuesday’s match against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground, a venue where they had lost their previous three visits. Mikel Arteta’s team was playing at the stadium.
But two errors proved to be the undoing of Forest’s hard-earned defensive strategy. First, former Gunner’s keeper Matt Turner let a Gabriel Jesus strike slip through his legs at his near post, and then World Cup winner Gonzalo Montiel carelessly gave away the ball and was helpless to stop Bukayo Saka from finishing off the counterattack with precision.
After crushing Crystal Palace 5-0 when they returned from the Dubai heat, the gun-toting Taiwo Awoniyi did set up a suspenseful finish, but the yellow-clad Arsenal held on to win the Premier League for the second time in a row after a much-needed winter break.
Following last year’s runners-up, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa, Arsenal’s game-changing triumph lifted the Gunners into the silver medal position in the table for a brief period. However, Manchester City, who lead only on goal difference but have a game in hand, have since knocked Arsenal back to third place.
With a 2-0 loss to West Ham United as their lone loss in their previous seven top-flight games at the Emirates Stadium, revenge will be the special dish on the North London menu this weekend as Arteta’s team looks to exact revenge for an identical FA Cup loss to their Merseyside rivals.
Liverpool have started their legendary manager’s farewell parade with a customary glut of Anfield goals, putting five past Norwich City in the FA Cup before outclassing, outfighting, and outwitting Chelsea on Wednesday night. This is Liverpool’s first road trip since Jurgen Klopp’s unexpected departure announcement.
Conor Bradley put on an incredible show, scoring his first senior goal for the Reds and setting up goals for Diogo Jota and Dominik Szoboszlai. Bradley became the youngest Liverpool player to set up multiple goals in a Premier League match in five years. Luis Diaz also participated in the Anfield Act.
Chelsea did have a chance thanks to Christopher Nkunku’s well-executed finish, but Mauricio Pochettino’s team was clearly second-best the entire game and could have had an even worse goal differential had Darwin Nunez not struck the woodwork an incredible four times. Chelsea had every right to feel hard done after having two strong penalty calls waved away.
In the end, the Uruguayan’s unfavourable record didn’t really matter. Liverpool, who have won their last eight games across all competitions, will lead Arsenal by eight points if they triumph at the Emirates, where they have the potential to seriously undermine the Gunners’ title hopes.
Only a few weeks ago, Klopp orchestrated an incredible 2-0 FA Cup victory on Arsenal’s home field—a match in which Arteta’s team was left to lament a plethora of wasted opportunities. However, by emerging from Anfield with a point in a 1-1 December draw, the Gunners made it three Premier League games without a loss against the Reds ahead of Sunday’s historic 200th league encounter.
Thomas Partey returned to full training before Arsenal’s victory at the City Ground after three months out due to a thigh injury. However, he was not included in the squad for the victory against Forest and has now had another setback, ruling him out of the picture for the weekend.
Although Takehiro Tomiyasu is still pushing Japan for Asian Cup gold, Fabio Vieira (groyne) and Jurrien Timber (ACL) are still recovering, and Mohamed Elneny is scheduled to return to domestic duty after Egypt’s elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations.
Jesus is still being monitored closely due to a persistent knee issue, but there is no indication that the Brazilian will not be able to start against Liverpool. Emile Smith Rowe, Kai Havertz, and Jorginho are Arteta’s options in midfield after the latter was given an unexpected start at the City Ground.
But Trent Alexander-Arnold’s experience and fresh legs may force the Northern Irishman to settle for a spot on the Emirates bench. Arteta’s midfield dilemma is nothing compared to Jurgen Klopp’s right-back dilemma, as Bradley supported the German’s choice to start him over the midweek.
Klopp is hopeful that Alexis Mac Allister, who suffered a knock to the knee in the final moments of the victory over Chelsea, will be fit despite the absence of Wataru Endo (international), Mohamed Salah (muscle), Kostas Tsimikas (collarbone), Stefan Bajcetic (calf), Ben Doak (knee), Joel Matip (knee), and Thiago Alcantara (hip).
But with a foot injury from the midweek match, woodwork merchant Nunez is now doubtful, so Cody Gakpo’s return to the starting lineup wouldn’t come as a huge surprise.
An undisturbed engine room and offensive trident should be used in North London, but Klopp also has to make the intriguing decision of whether to stick with Joe Gomez or elevate Andrew Robertson back to the first XI.
Possible Arsenal starting lineup:
Raya; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Odegaard, Rice, Havertz; Saka, Jesus, Martinelli
Possible Liverpool starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Jones, Mac Allister, Szoboszlai; Jota, Gakpo, and Diaz