Arsenal_logoLiverpool Football ClubLIVERPOOL FC

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ARSENAL FC

Anfield, Liverpool

21 Dec, 2014; 16:00 BST

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Both Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC have had a slow start to their season and the upcoming clash at Anfield between these two sides on Sunday provides a perfect opportunity for both the teams to jumpstart their League campaign.

Liverpool are currently 11th in the league table and they are already 18 points behind league leaders Chelsea. Their defeat at the hands of Manchester United in the last league game was their 7th loss of the season – more than what they managed in the whole of last season’s League campaign.  The biggest worry for Brendan Rodgers is the fact that his side has even failed to perform at home having managed only three wins in their eight games at Anfield. But the midweek win over Bournemouth in the League Cup should have restored some belief into the side and they would hope to carry it into the game against Arsenal.

Arsenal does have a big advantage over Liverpool when it comes to recent head-to-head record. The Gunners have won four of their last six matches against the Reds. But like Liverpool, they have also made a fairly slow start to their League campaign and are seventh in the table.

But after suffering a shambolic defeat against Stoke City, the Gunners have produced two good performances – against Galatasaray in the Champions League and Newcastle United in their last League fixture. Overall Arsenal have won five of their last six matches in all competition and have scored 10 goals in their last three games.

Team News And Tactics

Liverpool

Despite this upcoming fixture against Arsenal, Brendan Rodgers didn’t make rest any of his key players in the midweek League Cup clash against Bournemouth. Liverpool made only two changes to the line-up that was used against Manchester United with Joe Allen being replaced by Lucas Leiva and Kolo Toure coming into to the side in place of the injured Glen Johnson.

Liverpool’s injury worries increased in their League Cup fixture as Dejan Lovren limped off at halftime with a groin injury. The Merseyside club are still without Glen Johnson, Daniel Sturridge and Jon Flanagan. Johnson has ruled out for four weeks ahead of their League Cup fixture, while Flanagan is out for a long time. Lovren will undergo a late fitness test ahead of their game against Arsenal. There was also a possibility of Mario Balotelli returning to the starting line-up, but the Italian international will now face a one-match suspension after his misdemeanour on the social network.

Brendan Rodgers has recently shifted to a 3-4-2-1 formation in their last two matches. With Mario Balotelli struggling with his fitness and Rickie Lambert being rested in the last two games, Raheem Sterling has been played upfront as a striker. Rodgers is likely to stick to this formation against Gunners.

Liverpool are unlikely to make too many changes to the starting line-up they used against Bournemouth in the League Cup. Simon Mignolet will continue his spell on the bench, while Mamadou Sakho will replace the injured Dejan Lovren. If Mario Balotelli or Rickie Lambert returns to the starting line-up, Coutinho or Lallana will make way. That would also mean that Sterling will be played in a more withdrawn role.

Expected starting line-up (3-4-2-1): Jones (GK); Toure, Skrtel, Sakho; Henderson, Gerrard, Leiva, Markovic; Lallana, Coutinho; Sterling

Arsenal

Arsene Wenger has to deal with a familiarly long injury list at the moment as his team heads into the busy Christmas period. Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny and Mikel Arteta remain at the side-lines for the Gunners, while Aaron Ramsey was the latest addition to that list. Wenger has confirmed that the Welshman will miss the Christmas Period and he hopes to get him back at the start of the New Year.

David Ospina and Tomas Rosicky are back in full training, but won’t be back in the first team before next week. The good news is that Theo Walcott is getting closer to a return to the squad, but he is unlikely to make it before this game against Liverpool. Nacho Monreal could be available for this game after recovering from his ankle injury, but the Spaniard is unlikely to start.

Arsenal and Arsene Wenger are sweating on the fitness of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of this fixture. The England international has been used in the midfield in the absence of Ramsey, Wilshere and Arteta. But he has been unable to train with the team after picking up a groin injury in the last game against Newcastle United. Wenger has confirmed that Oxlade-Chamberlain will undergo a late fitness test as Arsenal’s option at the center of the park seemed stretched to say the least.

Wenger had to bring on 17-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the game against Newcastle to replace the injured Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arsenal have recalled Francis Coquelin from his loan spell at Charlton and the Frenchman could partner Mathieu Flamini in front of the back four in this game. The good news is that Calum Chambers will be back into the line-up for this game after missing out the last match due to suspension.

Chambers will go back to the center of the defence, while Mathieu Debuchy, who was played as a center back in the last match, moves back to right back. Coquelin and Chambers look to be the only two changes to the starting line-up Wenger used last gameweek.

Expected Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Szczesny (GK); Debuchy, Chambers, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Coquelin, Flamini; Sanchez, Cazorla, Welbeck; Giroud

Key Facts

  • Liverpool have won just two of the last 14 Premier League meetings with Arsenal (W2 D7 L5).
  • Liverpool v Arsenal has seen more hat-tricks than any other fixture in Barclays Premier League history (5).
  • Arsenal have trailed in six of the last seven Premier League games against Liverpool at Anfield and come back to win two and draw three of those six where they fell behind.
  • Alexis Sanchez has scored (7) or assisted (4) 11 of Arsenal’s last 17 Premier League goals (65%).
  • Liverpool had more points from their first 16 games of 2010-11 under Roy Hodgson (22) than they do currently in 2014-15 (21). Based on three points for a win, this is Liverpool’s worst -record after 16 games since 1964-65.

Players to watch out for

Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)

The 20-year-old has had to shoulder a lot of expectations this season after his wonderful performances last time around. Brendan Rodgers has used the Englishman as a striker in the last two matches and although his finishing was questioned against Manchester United, Sterling managed a brace in his last game against Bournemouth. The youngster will once again be the focal point of Liverpool’s attack upfront as he looks to improve his side’s poor goal scoring record in the League this season.

Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

Sanchez's goal was wasted as Arsenal let a one goal lead slip

Alexis Sanchez has turned out to be one of the best buys of the summer transfer window as the former Barcelona star as taken the Premier League by storm. Sanchez has already scored 13 goals and provide six assists, in all competitions, for the Gunners and will be Liverpool’s biggest threat at the back. If the Merseyside club hope to get a positive result in this game, they must limit Sanchez’s influence in the game somehow, something very few teams have managed to do this season.

Prediction

Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal

Liverpool are struggling to score goals in the league, while Arsenal are scoring plenty. Both defence look vulnerable at the back, hence once can expect a lot of goals in this game. But Arsenal’s better quality in attack should prove to be decisive in the end.

Blast from the past