MX23RW : Saturday, October 20 00:51:12
Mar 4, 2017 at 5.30pm UK at ​Anfield
Attendance: 53,146
Liverpool
3-1
Arsenal
Firmino (9'), Mane (40'), Wijnaldum (91')
Can (68')
FT(HT: 2-0)
Welbeck (57')
Coquelin (35'), Xhaka (78')

Preview: Liverpool vs. Arsenal

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Premier League clash between top-four rivals Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield.

Two clubs battling for a place in the top four will come face to face on Saturday evening when Liverpool host Arsenal at Anfield.

Just one place and one point separate the two sides in the Premier League table, but the Gunners sit in the coveted fourth spot while Liverpool have dropped out of the Champions League places in recent weeks.


Liverpool

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp looks on during his side's Premier League clash with Stoke City at Anfield on December 27, 2016© SilverHub

Quite what has happened to Liverpool since the turn of the year will be as baffling to Jurgen Klopp as it is to the rest of us.

The Reds lost just two of their opening 28 games of the season across all competitions, ending 2016 with a four-match winning streak, but already in 2017 they have lost six times and won just twice in 12 outings.

It is a dreadful spell of form which has proved fatal to their hopes of winning their first piece of silverware under Klopp, with exits from the EFL Cup, FA Cup and Premier League title race coming during that time.

Liverpool were top of the table as recently as November, but now find themselves in fifth place, one point off the top four and 14 adrift of league leaders Chelsea. Victory on Saturday would lift them back in to the Champions League spots, but Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United - the three teams directly around them in the table - all boast a game in hand over the Reds.

It is a quirk of Liverpool's form that fans will be a lot more confident heading into this weekend's match against Arsenal than they were in recent games against Swansea City, Hull City and Leicester City, though.

Four of Liverpool's five defeats this season have come against teams who started that match in the relegation zone, but in contrast they have the best record in the top-six mini-league, picking up 16 points from a possible 24 and not losing any of their eight matches against their fellow high flyers.

It is evident already that success will not come Liverpool's way if they can only perform in the big games, but Klopp will at least be hoping for another high-level performance against a top team this weekend having beaten Arsenal's North London neighbours Tottenham Hotspur last month.

Even with their poor form, Liverpool have not yet lost back-to-back league games under Klopp - a record they will be desperate to uphold following their disappointing 3-1 defeat at the hands of managerless and relegation-threatened champions Leicester on Monday night.

Liverpool have also only lost one of their last 20 home league games and, in their last four, have picked up wins over Manchester City and Tottenham in addition to a draw with Chelsea.

The question of how much progress Liverpool have made has been raised in recent weeks, with Klopp's league record after 56 games being identical to that of Brendan Rodgers, but it is important to remember that Klopp's side are still very much in the race to qualify for the Champions League for only the second time in the last eight seasons.

Klopp also does not have the likes of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard at his disposal, although there is no doubt that the current crop of players do need to show a quick improvement in their form if they are to silence the growing doubts amongst fans.

Recent form: DLDLWL
Recent form (all competitions): LLDLWL


Arsenal

A pensive Arsene Wenger during the Premier League game between Everton and Arsenal on December 13, 2016© SilverHub

It may be the first time Klopp has encountered questions over whether he is the right man for the job during his Liverpool career, but growing doubts amongst fans is nothing new for Arsene Wenger.

The Frenchman insists that he is still yet to decide over his future beyond the end of the current campaign, but did at least suggest earlier this week that the soon-to-be-vacant post at Barcelona does not interest him.

Is that also a hint that he will stay at the Emirates Stadium? Wenger has made no secret that Arsenal will always be his preference, but the number of fans who share that view seems to be dwindling by the year.

The Gunners currently occupy their familiar fourth place, although it should be noted that they are just three points behind second-placed Spurs with a game in hand over their local rivals. Another fourth-place finish would no doubt result in more derision from fans of opposition clubs - and some Arsenal supporters too - but in arguably the most competitive Champions League race yet it would be a more impressive achievement than in recent years.

Arsenal have had a two-week break from action which would have come at a welcome time for Wenger, whose 2-0 FA Cup win over non-league Sutton United last time out failed to adequately alleviate a prior run of three defeats in the space of four games.

Tuesday will see the Gunners welcome Bayern Munich to the Emirates Stadium looking to achieve the almost impossible task of overturning the 5-1 first-leg defeat which resulted in arguably the biggest backlash against Wenger's managerial reign yet, but for now Arsenal cannot afford to take their eyes off Liverpool.

Defeat would see Arsenal drop out of the top four - possibly down as low as sixth place - and with just one more Premier League game to come in March due to their continued involvement in the FA Cup that could leave them with a significant gap to make up during the closing two months of the season - a spell which sees them take on Man City, Tottenham and Manchester United.

That is not a good late-season run for a team who have picked up just five points from a possible 18 against fellow top-six teams this season, putting them bottom of the same mini-league that Liverpool lead.

The trip to Anfield could also expose their poor away form once again, with Arsenal having lost three and won just one of their last five league games on the road.

Recent form: DWWLLW
Recent form (all competitions): WLLWLW


Team News

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson celebrates following the team's Premier League victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on September 16, 2016

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson will miss this weekend's match with the same foot problem that forced him out of Monday night's defeat to Leicester.

Daniel Sturridge is also sidelined with a "very small" hip injury, but Dejan Lovren could return to the squad having missed the last three games with a knee injury.

Lucas Leiva could drop out of the starting XI whether or not Lovren is deemed fit to start, with Ragnar Klavan waiting in the wings, but Klopp is expected to keep faith once again with Simon Mignolet in goal.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have been boosted by the news that Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny are both back in full training, while Mesut Ozil is expected to return following a bout of illness.

Santi Cazorla is likely to miss the rest of the season, though, while Mohamed Elneny is another who faces a spell on the sidelines having damaged ankle ligaments during the win over Sutton.

A number of first-team players, including Premier League top scorer Alexis Sanchez, are expected to return to the side following that FA Cup triumph, although the Chilean could be forced to play in a deeper position if Olivier Giroud is given the nod to lead the line.

Giroud has scored three in his last two visits to Anfield and five Premier League goals against Liverpool overall. Only Thierry Henry has scored more against the Reds for Arsenal.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner; Lallana, Can, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud


Head To Head

Liverpool have lost just one of their last six Premier League meetings with Arsenal and are unbeaten in their last three at home, during which time there have been 16 goals at an average of 5.3 per game.

The Reds have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 10 home league games against the Gunners, though, stretching back more than a decade, while home and away they have stopped Arsenal from scoring just twice in their last 22 clashes.

The reverse fixture on the opening day saw Liverpool run out 4-3 winners at the Emirates Stadium, and victory on Saturday would see Klopp become the first Liverpool manager since Gerard Houllier in 1999-2000 to do the double over Wenger in a single season.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal

You can throw the form book out of the window for this match. Liverpool always seem to come up with the goods against the teams around them in the table, while the opposite is generally true of Arsenal. Considering Liverpool's decent home form and Arsenal's shaky away form throughout the campaign too, we're going for a rare 2017 victory for the Reds here.


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Who will win Saturday's Premier League clash at Anfield?

Liverpool
Draw
Arsenal
Liverpool
48.9%
Draw
18.9%
Arsenal
32.2%
Olivier Giroud celebrates during the Champions League game between Arsenal and PSG on November 23, 2016
Read Next:
Giroud urges Wenger to sign new Arsenal deal
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City86202131820
2Chelsea86201851320
3Liverpool86201531220
4Arsenal86021910918
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs8602157818
6Bournemouth85121612416
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves843196315
8Manchester UnitedMan Utd84131314-113
9Watford84131112-113
10Leicester CityLeicester84041412212
11Everton83321312112
12Burnley82241012-28
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton8224913-48
14Crystal Palace821559-47
15West Ham UnitedWest Ham8215813-57
16Southampton8125614-85
17Fulham8125921-125
18Huddersfield TownHuddersfield8035417-133
19Newcastle UnitedNewcastle8026613-72
20Cardiff CityCardiff8026417-132

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