16:00 KO (BST); Sunday 27th August; Anfield (Liverpool, England); Sky Sports
Having now officially made it into the Champions League, Liverpool bring their attentions back to focus on the Premier League. A tentative 1-0 win over Palace following a dramatic opening day draw against Watford have failed to see the Reds impose their title credentials so far this season, something currently being greatly hampered by their lack of balance between attack and defence.
A good record against the top teams in the league last year will provide confidence they can again take a good result from Arsenal, but the pattern for this season is yet to be set and Arsenal will be sure to provide a stern test for Klopp’s men.
While Klopp declared that no team will want to come to Anfield, Arsenal find themselves without a choice in the matter as the fixture list has penned them to make a visit there this Sunday. For Arsene Wenger, this is a fixture his team has lost only twice in the last six attempts.
With a need for a positive result after his side were brought back to Earth in Stoke, Liverpool offers a chance to not only get back to winning ways for his team, but also to do so with a signal of intent that Arsenal are able to challenge against the top teams in this year’s race for the Premier League title.
LAST TIME OUT
LIVERPOOL 4 – 2 Hoffenheim [agg 6-3] (Champions League Qualifier – 2nd Leg)
In yet another game which magnificently revealed Liverpool’s array of attacking prowess, it also simultaneously exposed their inability to perform at the other end of the pitch. While a quick goal effectively ended the game as a competition, it set up an exhibition feel to the night’s proceedings.
With Hoffenheim being repeatedly penned back by Liverpool’s pacey forwards, Sadio Mané, in particular, was a player who continually caused panic amongst the German defenders. It was Emre Can’s turn to shine in the Liverpool team, however, with two goals and an all-round performance which he’s always capable of delivering but doesn’t always provide.
The return of Jordan Henderson from last season’s injury-hell is starting to provide serious competition for places in the Liverpool midfield and Can has once again shown that he can.
Stoke City 1 – 0 ARSENAL (Premier League)
Arsenal built up over 77% of possession against Stoke but ultimately found themselves unable to pick their way through a well-drilled defence. In a game of small percentages, it was individual errors that led to the result. Unfortunately for Arsenal, this left them staring at the cruel headlines the following morning.
For Alexandre Lacazette it was an introduction to the Premier League in earnest. Following his lively display against Leicester which earned him much applause, he was not permitted as much time or space and often found himself closed out of the game.
It could have been a much different story if his goal had not been from an offside position, but he will now have a much clearer idea of what challenges await in the season ahead.
Nathaniel Clyne (muscular) Mamadou Sakho (knee) and Adam Lallana (thigh) are all still unavailable for Liverpool, along with Philippe Coutinho who looks increasingly likely to have played his last game for the Reds. Daniel Sturridge will be available again and could be one of the players called upon by Klopp to freshen his team following their midweek exertions.
Laurent Koscielny should make his return for the Gunners, however, Wenger will still be without Santiago Cazorla (ankle) and Jack Wilshere (leg)
Key Battle: Sadio Mané vs Alexandre Lacazette
In a game that’s expected to be an extremely open affair, there will be more emphasis than normal on scoring more goals than your opponent. For Liverpool, Mané is the player most likely to fire his team ahead and create chances for others alongside him. His creative output increased last year and appears set to rise again with Coutinho’s possible exit giving him greater licence to operate around the pitch rather than working a designated channel.
Arsenal are a team that have struggled to find a truly prolific striker since Robin Van Persie’s haul of 30 goals in the 2011/12 season. While Alexis Sanchez scored 24 for the Gunners last season, he looks unlikely to play this weekend, with a possible move away from the club in the coming days.
This leaves much expectation resting in the lap of Alexandre Lacazette, a player who managed 28 goals from the 30 games he played in the French league last season. With one goal already to his name in the Premier League, this will be the perfect opportunity for him to truly announce his arrival at his new club.
Liverpool’s extra game on Wednesday night may become a factor in the latter parts of their match against the Gunners on Sunday. Arsenal were one of the few teams to not have a game this week, while many other sides who took part in cup competitions were able to field a second-choice team to allow their players time to recover fully before this weekends fixtures.
With Liverpool’s squad still light on players for a club challenging on so many separate fronts, many of the same players will feature in both Wednesday’s and Sunday’s clashes. While injuries are currently playing a part in the limited options available to Klopp, this is something which can’t be discounted at any given point of the season. As such, this game will be the first test with at least another six European nights to follow in the near future.
Beware of the Ox
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of the Arsenal players whose future is shrouded in mystery. With only a year remaining on his current contract, now is the time for Wenger to either sign him, sell him, or accept that his future vision of players switching clubs without the need for transfer fees is something which presents a fundamental problem for the safe running of a club.
With Wenger’s public statements that he wants Oxlade-Chamberlain to stay and become a part of the Gunners future, it will be a huge public insult for the Frenchman and Arsenal if the player then chooses to walk away. With plenty of top clubs reportedly circling around his potential signing, there’s now a serious decision to make for the young English international and with a World Cup fast approaching, his interests may break the popular perception of the stereotypical footballer and transcend above monetary reasons.
PREDICTION: Liverpool 2 – 3 Arsenal
Jurgen Klopp’s claim that no team will want to play at Anfield could well be something used by the footballing Gods to come back and bite him. Having yet to truly impress in any of their opening four competitive games to the season, Liverpool face an Arsenal team who will be in desperate need of a bounce following their shock defeat to Stoke.
Having played well in both of their Premier League games so far, the Gunners better football should see them clinch victory in an entertaining game which will likely cause nosebleeds among defence enthusiasts.
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