The race to finish fourth, and qualify for the Champions League, is proving to be one of the most exciting for years. Two of the teams embroiled in this battle face off at The Emirates on Saturday, and neutrals will be hoping that this mouth-watering encounter does not turn out to be a damp squib.
On the other hand, fans of Arsenal and Liverpool probably couldn’t care less, just as long as their team comes away with three valuable points.
Both teams are in impressive form, and have lost just two of their last fifteen matches. Arsenal have won their last six on the bounce, while Liverpool suffered a 2-1 defeat against Manchester United in their last Premier League fixture.
For this match however, expect the form book to be ceremoniously lobbed through the nearest window.
Arsenal have an uncharacteristically short injury list at present. Danny Welbeck pulled out of the England squad after scoring against Lithuania on Friday with a knee injury, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is suffering with a hamstring injury. The big news for Arsenal fans is that four players featured in a friendly match against Brentford this week. Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby – yes, really – all played 45 minutes, while Mathieu Debuchy was given an hour. The Gunners won the match 4-0, but the players returning from injury will be the greatest tonic for Arsene Wenger.
Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge has picked up yet another injury, this time his hip, and is expected to be out for a further four weeks. In addition, Adam Lallana will be out until after Easter with a groin strain, and Jordon Ibe is still sidelined with a knee injury. Liverpool could welcome back John Flanagan, who featured in the ‘Gerrard vs Carragher’ match at weekend, while Dejan Lovren is hoping to shake off his abdominal problem. Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel are both suspended.
Both Liverpool and Arsenal will be hoping that their players currently on international duty return unscathed.
- Arsenal won this fixture last season, with goals from Cazorla and Ramsey giving them a 2-0 win.
- Liverpool ended the season five points ahead of The Gunners, finishing in second place behind Manchester City.
- Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud have both hit thirteen goals in the Premier League this season.
- Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard are tied as Liverpool’s leading scorer; each has six goals in the league.
- Santi Cazorla has the most assists for Arsenal with eight, while Sterling and Jordan Henderson both have seven for Liverpool.
Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez
It’s already been a great season for Sanchez, who Arsenal signed for around £35 million from Barcelona in July. The Chilean international has plundered thirteen goals in the Premier League, and eighteen in all competitions. He also has seven assists in his twenty-six starts for Arsenal, and has been named man of the match on five occasions. His lightning pace and power will be a handful for the Liverpool defence, especially in the absence of Martin Skrtel. If Liverpool can’t stop Sanchez on Saturday, they could soon find themselves even further adrift in the race for the top four places.
Liverpool: Raheem Sterling.
Sterling has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently. Rumour has it that the English international is ready to turn down a 180k a week contract, though anything published in the British media has to be taken with a rather large dollop of salt. The fact remains that Sterling is an extremely talented individual. Providing he is fit for the Arsenal match, he has all the attributes to be the match winner. Six goals and seven assists in twenty-seven starts reflects a great season for the twenty year old, and Liverpool will be hoping for another electric performance against Arsenal.
Both teams are capable of playing outstanding attacking football, so expect an entertaining game. Personally, I think Arsenal will be too strong for Liverpool, who are without several key players an opinion also shared by tipsters SportyTrader.
3-1 to Arsenal is 14/1 with William Hill, and looks a good bet.