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Jan 13, 2016 at 8pm UK at Anfield
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Preview: Liverpool vs. Arsenal

Sports Mole looks ahead to Wednesday night's Premier League clash between Liverpool and leaders Arsenal at Anfield.

Premier League leaders Arsenal will be looking to take a small step closer to their first title since 2004 when they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on Wednesday.

The Gunners sit two points clear at the top of the table, while Liverpool are 12 points further back and looking to close the gap on the Champions League places.


Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool looka on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on December 13, 2015 in Liverpool, England.© Getty Images

Six points is the gap to the Champions League places for Liverpool now as they turn their focus back to the Premier League following a week of cup action.

Jurgen Klopp edged towards a first trophy in English football as Liverpool put their toe in the League Cup final with a 1-0 victory over Stoke City in the first leg of their semi-final at the Britannia Stadium last week.

The Reds deserved that victory having put in an impressive performance, but in keeping with their inconsistent season so far they were unable to back it up three days later when a brand-new starting XI could only manage a 2-2 FA Cup draw with Exeter City.

Aside from the ignominy of being held by a League Two club, the result was a poor one for Liverpool as it added yet another fixture to their already-packed schedule. Wednesday's match will be their fifth in the space of a fortnight, while if Liverpool do make it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup then they will play nine games in January alone.

It is perhaps no surprise that they have been so badly hit with injuries, then, but their crisis could barely have come at a worse time with Arsenal and Manchester United both visiting Anfield this week.

Victory in those games would, of course, be a major boost to their top-four hopes this season, and they have already shown with wins over the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Leicester City this season that they are capable of raising their game for a big occasion.

However, it is a mystery what Liverpool side will turn up. They followed back-to-back wins with a tepid 2-0 defeat at West Ham United in their last league outing, a result that saw them slip down to eighth in the table.

Klopp has so far failed to recreate the sporadic scintillating away performances at Anfield too, with Liverpool not having won a home game in any competition by more than one goal since April of last year. They are, however, unbeaten in front of their own fans in their last four outings and have lost just one of their last 12 games at Anfield.

With as many as 13 players potentially sidelined for this game, though, anything other than a defeat may be considered a decent result for the hosts.

Recent form: LDLWWL
Recent form (all competitions): LWWLWD


Arsene Wenger wraps up warm during the game between Arsenal and Newcastle on January 2, 2016© Getty Images

Arsenal are no strangers to injury woes themselves, but the way in which they have coped with such problems this season is another factor behind many considering them favourites for the title.

Aside from a November wobble, the Gunners have looked pretty consistent throughout the season so far, and crucially have been able to bounce back from any sudden and unexpected setbacks.

That has been particularly true over the last three games, with Arsenal quickly returning to form with consecutive victories following the Boxing Day aberration of a 4-0 loss at the hands of out-of-form Southampton.

That is their only defeat in their last 10 games in all competitions, while they have won seven of their last eight to not only rise to the top of the Premier League table but also book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Any European success requires the unlikely task of getting past reigning champions Barcelona, but Arsene Wenger was able to continue his quest towards another piece of silverware with a 3-1 victory over Sunderland in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

The Gunners were forced to come from behind against the Black Cats and did not have things all their own way, but they still managed to come out with a win that takes them a step closer to becoming the first side to win the competition three years in a row since the 1880s.

They did it without arguably their star player this season in Mesut Ozil too, but the German playmaker is expected to return to the side as he continues to hunt down Thierry Henry's all-time Premier League assist record of 20. Ozil has already registered an incredible 16 in 19 league games this term.

Perhaps the only minor concern for Arsenal fans at the moment will be their away form. Only Leicester City have picked up more points or scored more goals on the road this season, but Arsenal's only away league win since October came at rock-bottom Aston Villa, while their most recent away outing resulted in that rout at Southampton.

On the transfer front, the Mohamed Elneny saga continues to drag on for the Gunners and the Basel man is unlikely to be cleared in time for Wednesday's match.

Recent form: WWWLWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWLWWW

Team News

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez grimaces during the Premier League defeat to West Bromwich Albion on November 21, 2015© Getty Images

Wenger has confirmed that Wednesday's match will come "too soon" for Alexis Sanchez, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since the end of November.

Ozil and Mathieu Flamini will be available for the Gunners, however, while David Ospina faces a late fitness test after missing out on Saturday.

Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla all remain sidelined for Arsenal, but Joel Campbell may be hopeful of a start having scored at the weekend.

Liverpool have been boosted by the news that their defensive shortage has eased somewhat, with Kolo Toure available to play against his former club and Mamadou Sakho also in contention for a return.

However, Jordon Ibe is the latest in the Liverpool camp to fall foul of the hamstring strain, and he is a doubt for the match alongside Jordan Henderson, who continues to suffer with a persistent heel problem.

Daniel Sturridge may be fit to return for the weekend, but for now he remains sidelined along with Jon Flanagan, Jordan Rossiter, Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi, Philippe Coutinho, Martin Skrtel, Danny Ings and Joe Gomez.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet; Clyne, Toure, Sakho, Moreno; Can, Lucas, Milner, Firmino, Lallana; Benteke

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Campbell; Giroud

Head To Head

Liverpool have won just one of their last nine meetings with Arsenal in all competitions, with that coming in February 2014 when they put the Gunners to the sword with a 5-1 victory at Anfield.

There were no goals when these two met at the Emirates Stadium in August, although both sides hit the woodwork in an entertaining Monday night fixture. The corresponding match last season saw plenty of drama too as 10-man Liverpool rescued a 2-2 draw courtesy of a 97th-minute header from Skrtel.

This fixture has seen more hat-tricks than any other in Premier League history, with a player taking the match ball home on five occasions, the most recent of which was Andrei Arshavin's four-goal haul in 2009.

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We say: Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal

Liverpool have generally raised their game against the big teams this season, and Klopp's style could be well suited to that of Wenger in their first Premier League meeting. Arsenal are the form team, though, and will be able to name a much closer side to their strongest XI than Liverpool will, so we can see the Gunners getting something out of the game.

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Kolo Toure of Liverpool in action during the international friendly match between Thai Premier League All Stars and Liverpool FC at Rajamangala Stadium on July 14, 2015
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States22251764
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Great BritainGreat Britain11121235
Today's Olympic highlights header

Monday's key events

· There are no Brits in the women's 100m hurdles final, but Puerto Rico's Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, fresh from breaking the Olympic record in the semis, will hope to pip world record holder Kendra Harrison to gold (3.50am)
· The women's 5000m final also has no Team GB representation, but two-time world champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya will be looking to add an Olympic gold to her list of honours (1.40pm)

· The women's skiff 49er FX (6.33am) and men's skiff 49er (7.33am) come to their conclusion, with Team GB involved in both medal races

· A place in the women's gold medal match is up for grabs, starting with an all-North American semi-final between United States and Canada (9am)
· Australia, who edged past Team GB's in a seven-goal quarter-final thriller, take on Sweden in the second semi-final (12pm)

· The track cycling schedule gets underway, with Team GB holding a particular interest in the team pursuit qualifying. Laura Kenny is part of the women's team (7.54am), while the men's team includes Ed Clancy (9.02am)

· The Gadirova twins Jessica and Jennifer will both take part in the women's floor final as they look to add to their team bronze (9.57am)

· Newly-crowned European champion Emily Campbell flies the flag for Great Britain in the women's +87kg, but faces stiff competition for medals from China's Li Wenwen and New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard (11.50am)

· The women's hockey quarter-finals begin, with Team GB last up against Spain (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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