In one of the biggest games of the FA Cup fifth round this weekend, Arsenal welcome Liverpool to the Emirates on Sunday.
The fixture arguably couldn’t have come at a worse time for Arsene Wenger and his team. They suffered the humiliation of a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool last weekend and could only draw with Manchester United during the week. The fans will expect a lot but Wenger will have an eye on the game against Bayern Munich next week, and so rotation may be the best answer for him.
Liverpool on the other hand will be coming into this game on a great run of form. After winning the aforementioned game against Arsenal, they managed to mount a late comeback and beat Fulham at Craven Cottage during the week. The Reds have yet to lose a game during 2014 and will want to improve their chances of winning silverware this season by beating Arsenal.
Wenger has several injury problems in his squad just now. Thomas Vermaelen and Aaron Ramsey are still out for the next week or so at least. Kim Kallstrom and Diaby have no return date as yet and of course, Theo Walcott will not be back at all this season. Unfortunately for Arsenal, it has also been confirmed that Santi Cazorla will miss this game due to illness but there is some good news as Mathieu Flamini will return from suspension.
In his press conference, Brendan Rodgers confirmed that Glen Johnson is training again but may not be able to feature for Liverpool this Sunday. Daniel Agger is in the same position. Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho won’t be back until early next month and there is still no return date for Jose Enrique. Fans should expect to see a strong team however as Rodgers said his team want to win the trophy and will choose his team accordingly.
Arsenal have lost just one of their previous eight games in the FA Cup against Liverpool.
The Gunners have achieved 11 clean sheets in their last 12 games at the Emirates.
Arsenal have lost just once to Liverpool at the Emirates, back in August 2011.
Liverpool have won just two of their last six away games in the FA Cup.
The Reds thrashed Arsenal 5-1 in their last meeting, but lost 2-0 at the Emirates.
Liverpool have yet to lose in 2014.
Arsenal – Laurent Koscielny
Koscielny has undoubtedly been one of Arsenal’s best players and it is unsurprising that he has started 23 games in the league alone. Together with Per Mertesacker, they make up the best defensive partnership in the Premier League and it is likely he will start against Liverpool on Sunday. He has won 62% of his 95 ground 50-50 challenges and 56% of his 59 aerial 50-50 challenges. He has an even better record with his tackles, winning 79.55% of the 44 he has attempted this season. He has managed to make 73 interceptions on top of four last man tackles and last but not least, he has only made two errors in defence which equates to one every 1,000 minutes.
In terms of possession, he has won the ball back 128 times overall, 98 of which were in the defensive third, and has only been dispossessed five times. It’s easy to see why the defender has been in top form this season and he could have a big presence at the back against the Reds.
Liverpool – Philippe Coutinho
Coutinho has been one of Liverpool’s most exciting players recently and most notable against Arsenal last weekend. The Brazilian has a great passing ability and this has shown in terms of his accuracy so far this season. He has completed 566 of his 784 passes in the attacking zone of the pitch, giving him an accuracy of 72%. He has also managed to achieve an accuracy of 69% in the final third of the pitch, completing 334 of his 481 passes in this area.
His performances have enabled him to create 37 chances overall for his team mates and achieve four assists. This means he is creating a chance every 43 minutes on average. The midfielder has been able to score three goals of his own, most recently in the Fulham game when his goal levelled the score at 2-2. If he can maintain the level that he has been performing at recently, then Coutinho could be a big threat to the Arsenal defence on Sunday.
Arsenal have the better record of the two sides and despite the heavy defeat last weekend, playing at the Emirates will be a big advantage for the side. However, if Wenger really does pick a slightly weakened team then this could tip the balance in Liverpool’s favour. The Reds don’t have the best away form however, despite not losing in 2014, and Arsenal will know this. That’s why I think it will finish 2-2. This would mean a replay at Anfield.