Premier League giants Arsenal and Liverpool come up against each other in a tricky curtain raiser to the new season which has been further complicated by injuries to key defensive players for both teams.
Arsenal are without their star center-back and newly appointed club captain Per Mertesacker, who will be out for at least two months after pulling out of pre-season with a knee injury. Their defensive woes were further exacerbated by the injury to his back-up Gabriel during the friendly against Manchester City, which has ruled him out for the season opener. The Gunners’ other first choice centre-back Laurent Koscielny is still recovering from his exertions at the European Championships with France, and is unlikely to be match fit.
Arsene Wenger now has two options for the defence: he could go with the inexperienced duo of Calum Chambers and new signing Rob Holding from Bolton, or he could start left-back Nacho Monreal in the centre of defence alongside one of the two and play Keiran Gibbs at left-back.
Two other key faces who could be missing for the Gunners are striker Olivier Giroud and star midfielder Mesut Ozil, who are both also suffering from fitness issues after a taxing summer with their respective national teams.
Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool have injury woes of their own, with the perennially injured Daniel Sturridge ruled out with a hip injury and the veteran James Milner out with a heel injury. Two of their new signings are also facing injury woes — goalkeeper Lorris Karius has been ruled out for two months after suffering a broken hand in the Reds pre-season friendly against Chelsea, and centre-back Joel Matip, who joined on a free from Schalke, is also a doubt after he suffered an ankle injury against Wigan Athletic a few weeks ago.
Another new signing in Ragnar Klavan from Augsburg is expected to start in defence alongside Dejan Lovren, while Belgian keeper Simon Mignolet will start in goal. However, Klopp has a relatively full-strength squad to choose from in terms of his attack, with Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum expected to make their competitive debuts for Liverpool alongside the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson.