Despite a blistering start, Liverpool have lost their momentum drastically this year and are fighting an uphill battle to make it to the ‘top four’ in order to secure a Champions League berth. Arsenal, on the other hand, have recovered from a dreadful start but are struggling to secure a top-half finish with 9 games remaining.
Liverpool, meanwhile, are only four points ahead of the Gunners in the Premier League standings. A win on Saturday night would revive Arsenal’s odds for a place in Europe and the Emirates win last season against the champions must motivate Mikel Arteta who humbled Jurgen Klopp in the Community Shield as well as the League Cup earlier this campaign.
The North London hotshots won the latest derby securing a stunning comeback against Tottenham Hotspur. However, they survived a catastrophe versus West Ham and finished 3-3 despite conceding thrice within the first half an hour. The spirit is high within the camp, but the gaffer is likely to implement his usual defensive formation considering the Reds’ attacking flair. Despite not being in the best of shape, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are still capable of delivering a masterclass. Long balls forward and swift counter-attacks should be the hosts’ strategy against a feeble Liverpool backline.
Klopp, known for his high pressing and attacking brand of football, must not fall in Arteta’s trap. The Spaniard would invite the Merseysiders to operate in the Arsenal box to explore their predictability and lack of creative spark. Liverpool need to stay cautious while dealing with counter-attacks and the ‘midfield three’, therefore, should not be over-adventurous. The priority should be closing down the spaces as well as screening the backline to nullify the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette.
Arsenal do not have many injuries with Willian set to return to action after recovering from a calf strain. Academy pair Emile Smith Rowe [groin] and Bukayo Saka [thigh] are having some discomfort but would undergo late fitness tests prior to the clash.
Arsenal Predicted XI
Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, David Luiz, Gabriel, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Nicolas Pepe, Martin Ødegaard, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; Alexandre Lacazette.
Skipper Jordan Henderson is ruled out for months with a groin injury. Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip continue to be the long-term absentees whereas Divock Origi remains sidelined for the Emirates trip with a muscle strain. Roberto Firmino has returned to team training and is likely to be involved against the Gunners.
Liverpool Predicted XI
Alisson Becker; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Nat Phillips, Ozan Kabak, Andrew Robertson; Georginio Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Thiago; Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, Sadio Mane
The winter arrival of Martin Ødegaard has upgraded Arsenal significantly in terms of creativity in the middle of the park. Saka would be a threat from the flanks if declared fit, also the experience of Aubameyang and Lacazette might prove troublesome for Phillips and Kabak.
Diogo Jota is in red-hot form as the Portuguese attacking ace is enjoying a scoring run for both club and country. He has recovered from an injury nightmare and would look to fire in once more having scored on his Premier League debut (in Liverpool colours) against the Gunners earlier this campaign. Fabinho’s return in the middle of the park has restored the balance to some extent in the aftermath of a disastrous run.
The bookies have put Arsenal at 11/5 to emerge as the winners. The draw has been listed as 27/10 and Liverpool are priced at 23/20 to come out victorious.