Arsenal – Liverpool (Premier League)
On Saturday Arsenal and Liverpool go head-to-head. Despite their equally striking starts it is still difficult to take them seriously. They have both burnt bright before but they are not the the strongest bets for the long run. At the Emirates the training wheels are coming off and we will see who is prepared to ride the title on their own.
Tuesday night Mourinho continued his stretch over Arsène Wenger, knocking the Gunners out of the Capital One Cup with an clear 0-2 win at the Emirates. It didn’t help, sure, but is hardly significant since it was Arsenal’s B team and now is business as usual, which means all the top dogs are back in action. And if you skip Chelsea, Arsenal is doing really well, playing good football and more importantly sitting at the top of the Premier League table. Ozil’s arrival lightened up the Gunners. The way he moves on the field, dragging opponents behind him, brings his team-mates into the game in a way that allows them to shine too. Just look at Olivier Giroud’s latest performances. Arsenal are heading into a hell of a month, though: hosting Liverpool, going to Dortmund, back to Old Trafford and last but not least Southampton. It is a lot to deal with.
Sagna should return to the lineup. Even if Carl Jenkinson had not made that pathetic error allowing Torres to score he should. Walcott is reported close to fitness but maybe not just yet. Gnabry got knocked against Palace and now Flamini picked up a groin injury and is expected to be on the sidelines for the next three to four weeks. That can prove tragic since this is a key period for them. Flamini has been Gunners first line of defence and nobody else on the squad has that kind of instinct. That’s the thing with Arsenal, always if Serge Gnabry was fit, if Podolsky, if whomever. Tough luck, yes, but it’s no excuse. Top teams need their second lines to be as close as possible to their first ones.
Probable lineup: Wojciech Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs – Arteta, Ramsey – Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla – Giroud.
The Reds were already out of the League Cup, thanks to Manchester United, so Brendan Rodgers was able to rest his players for the clash at the Emirates. Before that they had a convincing win over West Brom Albion. Luis Suárez made a hat-trick and Sturridge sealed the deal. Liverpool are now 2nd, only two points behind their weekend’s competitors. Koscielny and Mertsacker will have their work cut out with the SAS strike-force in line. Together they have 14 goals so far and counting.
Playmaker Philippe Coutinho is ready to get back in the game but he is more probable to come from the bench, not as a starter.
Probable lineup: Mignolet – Touré, Skrtel, Sakho – Jonhson, Henderson, Leiva, Gerrard, Cissokho – Sturridge, Suárez.
In the last 12 matches between Arsenal and Liverpool the Gunners have won four, lost one and draw seven times. Last season the fixture ended with a 2-2 result, and a similar outcome is not at all unlikely. Whatever happens, if both sides keep up their form the fans will be in for a lively attacking contest. Not bad for a Fall afternoon.