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LIVERPOOL

Saturday, April 4 2014; 12:45 GMT

Emirates Stadium, London

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It gets tougher for Liverpool in the race for a Top 4 spot after a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United. Arsenal are within touching distance of 2nd place. Will Arsenal dash Liverpool supporters’ hopes for the season, or will Liverpool throw the race for a Top 4 spot in disarray with a win at the Emirates? A draw will be more helpful for Arsenal on the day, but more helpful for Manchester United overall.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Arsenal FC

Arsenal go into this game 6 points ahead of Liverpool, and 1 ahead of Manchester United, yet have their own problems. Danny Welbeck had pulled out of England’s friendly against Italy this past Monday and hence is a doubt when facing Liverpool. The likes of Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Debuchy are further behind in their attempts to get back into action, and will not be available for selection.

Rumours of Arsenal sniffing around for a chance to take Raheem Sterling ‘home’ have been denied by the Gunners’ board; thus providing a subplot to this fixture that otherwise would not be present. Sterling put some of the speculation to rest recently by declaring that he had reject a GBP 100,000 a week offer from Liverpool; but also stirred a few feathers by talking about how it was wonderful to score goals in his ‘hometown’ for England against Lithuania. Liverpool supporters still harbour a degree of ill feeling towards Arsenal for the GBP 40m plus 1 bid that the Gunners placed for Luis Suarez in the past, and will be eager to see their side use this speculation as a motivation to get the better of Arsenal on Saturday.

Arsenal will likely line up in the 4-2-3-1 that has served them well recently as they have won 6 consecutive Premier League games. Per Mertesacker has recently been dropped in favour of Gabriel Paulista, and will still be on the bench when Liverpool come visiting, owing to the improved defensive performances ever since that disastrous home defeat to AS Monaco recently.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ospina, Monreal, Koscielny, Paulista, Chambers, Coquelin, Ramsey, Sanchez, Cazorla, Welbeck, Giroud

Arsenal vs Liverpool

Liverpool FC

Liverpool make the tricky trip to the Emirates Stadium without the likes of Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel, both of whom have been suspending for 3 games for stamping on Manchester United’s Ander Herrera and David De Gea respectively. Gerrard may not have been an automatic starter even if he was fit and available, however, Martin Skrtel has been a constant fixture in Liverpool’s 3 man defensive line and hence Brendan Rodgers has a tough choice regarding who should replace him.

More bad news for Liverpool came through just prior to the international break thanks to another injury to Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge has now suffered his 14th injury since joining Liverpool in January 2015 (not all of which have taken place while playing for Liverpool) and hence will miss up to a month of action. Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert have barely been given minutes on the field over the last 6-8 weeks, hence it will be a straight fit between Mario Balotelli and Raheem Sterling for a single slot up front. One can assume that Rodgers will use the same formation until it ceases to work, hence the 3-4-3; but if Rodgers was to send out a back four instead, Liverpool supporters may witness the diamond once again being a part of the Reds’ starting lineup.

Liverpool have had to deal with the likes of Swansea and Manchester United doubling up their defenders on either wing, however, one can expect them to play 3 men at the back as before, despite the defeat to Manchester United, as well as a shocking performance from left back Alberto Moreno. Serbian winger Lazar Markovic has been out of favour recently, but could start as a right wing back given that Sterling is likely to start up-front.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Mignolet, Can, Toure, Sakho, Markovic, Henderson, Allen, Moreno, Lallana, Coutinho, Sterling

Key Facts

  1. Arsenal have won in each of their last 8 games at home in the Premier League.
  2. Liverpool have kept 6 consecutive clean sheets away from home in the Premier League; they haven’t kept such a record for 43 years.
  3. Much maligned Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet now has 11 clean sheets, the highest number among all goalkeepers in the Premier League, along with Southampton’s Fraser Forster and Ben Foster of West Bromwich Albion.

Player to watch out for

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)

The Brazilian magician may have received praise recently from Pele himself, but he has not always been at his best away from home during his time at Liverpool, especially due to the added defensive work that is often required at away games. Arsenal’s defending has improved recently ever since Per Mertesacker was dropped to the bench, however, the showdown at the Emirates is an opportunity for Coutinho to conjure some fine chances for the likes of Sterling and Lallana to score from.

Prediction

Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool

Blast from the Past