Arsenal vs. Liverpool
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Kick off: 8PM
A blockbuster tie to kickstart proceedings after the latest international break takes place at the Emirates Stadium this evening as Arsenal play host to Liverpool in the Premier League.
Two places and four points separate the two faltering sides in the table as things stand, with Liverpool currently occupying seventh spot while the Gunners languish in ninth ahead of their 30th league match of the campaign.
Mikel Arteta’s men head into this game on the back of a pulsating 3-3 draw with West Ham United, while Jurgen Klopp’s side overcame Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 before the international break.
Arsenal’s old nemesis Jesse Lingard drew first blood in what looked set to be a comprehensive victory for West Ham at the London Stadium on March 21, as the Manchester United loanee rifled home before the Gunners completely switched off at a free kick and allowed Jarrod Bowen to tap home at the near post.
Things would go from bad to worse for a disconsolate Mikel Arteta as Tomas Soucek trebled West Ham’s lead just after the hour mark, with Arsenal’s defensive frailties coming to the fore once again, and a Hammers player would also score the fourth goal of the game, but this time Soucek saw Alexandre Lacazette’s effort deflect off his leg into the back of the net.
So often instrumental to Arsenal’s attacking phases, Martin Odegaard led from the front and had a hand in both of Arsenal’s goals in the second half, as a reinvigorated Calum Chambers saw his cross cannon off Craig Dawson into the Hammers net before Lacazette’s header completed a phenomenal comeback in the London derby for the Gunners.
While the spirit and tenacity of Arteta’s men in the second 45 must be applauded, Liverpool’s famed attackers will enjoy a field day if their hosts endure an equally woeful start to the game this weekend, and Arsenal have now gone 12 games without a clean sheet in all competitions since holding Manchester United to a goalless stalemate back in January.
The Gunners also progressed to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, but even that was not without its disappointment as Olympiacos claimed an inconsequential 1-0 win at the Emirates, and with only three wins to boast from their last nine top-flight matches, any hopes of a top-four finish will be all but extinguished if they fail to come up trumps here.
Indeed, Arteta’s side currently sit nine points behind fourth-placed Chelsea ahead of their lunchtime meeting with West Bromwich Albion, while six points separate them from bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur in sixth, so a successful venture in the Europa League is arguably the Gunners’ best opportunity to secure a 27th consecutive season of continental football.
However, the Gunners have managed to navigate their last four Premier League games unbeaten and have claimed deserved victories over Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur in that time, while their FA Cup run last season also proved Arteta’s credentials in the big games, and only one of their last eight top-flight matches at the Emirates has ended in defeat – a 1-0 loss to Manchester City on February 21.
Furthermore, Gunners will have extremely fond memories of their most recent Emirates battle with Liverpool, as Lacazette and the forgotten man Reiss Nelson both chalked up goals in a 2-1 triumph last July – by which point Klopp’s side had already been crowned champions – and they could beat the Reds in back-to-back home league matches for the first time since April 2015 this weekend.
With Arteta still chopping and changing his centre-backs, Pep Guardiola’s former protege must quickly find the optimal defensive formula as Arsenal bid to keep a long-awaited clean sheet on their way to another memorable triumph, but they have not won back-to-back home league matches since October and not many will be placing bets on them ending that barren run here.
Diogo Jota returned to Molineux in style to condemn Wolves to a 1-0 defeat in their most recent Premier League outing, although the result of the game was overshadowed by a horrific head injury to his compatriot Rui Patricio in the hosts’ goal, as the game came to an end with over 100 minutes on the clock following the veteran’s harrowing ordeal.
However, Patricio is confirmed to be doing well after his head injury – relief for Nuno Espirito Santo after his star striker Raul Jimenez was not so lucky a few months ago – but Liverpool did not allow themselves to rest on their laurels after nearly two hours of football as they ended a two-game losing streak in the top flight with that West Midlands triumph.
With a whopping 25 points separating the champions from champions-elect Manchester City, it would take a collapse of catastrophic proportions for Guardiola’s side to somehow lose their grip on the crown now, and even Klopp himself has admitted that a Champions League berth is “almost impossible” for his side at this stage.
As is the case with their hosts Arsenal, who will be striving for Europa League glory, Liverpool’s hopes of success in Europe are still very much alive as they eased to a 4-0 aggregate victory over RB Leipzig in the Champions League last 16, although they must now overcome serial winners Real Madrid in the quarter-finals to have a shot at lifting the trophy.
The fortress that was once Anfield has seen its walls crumble since Burnley ended Liverpool’s astonishing unbeaten home record in January, but Liverpool have enjoyed far greater success on their travels, as they are currently on a three-game winning streak away from home across all competitions – keeping a clean sheet on each occasion – and four of their last five away outings in the league have ended in victory.
On the other hand, Liverpool have only come up trumps in two of their last eight Premier League matches – losing the other six – and interestingly, only one team has found the back of the net in Liverpool’s last seven fixtures since Leicester City beat them 3-1 on February 13.
Arsenal possible starting lineup: Leno, Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Pepe, Odegaard, Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Liverpool possible starting lineup: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Thiago, Salah, Firmino, Mane.