An in-form Liverpool took Arsenal apart at Anfield last season, beating them 5-1 with four goals in the opening 20 minutes. The situation is rather different ahead of this weekend’s battle, with the Reds in disarray and Arsenal looking slightly more potent up front, but just as vulnerable at the back.
With Arsenal in such form, and Liverpool beginning to play better football and score more goals, this fixture has a hefty scoreline written all over it, meaning an unusual result could have the bookies in a spin!
We profile the key match ups ahead of the potential goal-scoring frenzy this Sunday!
Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud & Danny Welbeck v Dejan Lovren
Arsenal’s front three will be causing Liverpool all sorts of problems on Sunday, but their most lethal force is undoubtedly Sanchez. The Chilean will drift from the wings into the centre alongside Olivier Giroud, with Danny Welbeck making runs and opening up space for Sanchez to hit Liverpool. Lovren has been a calamitous buy for Brendan Rodgers, having made several high profile mistakes to date, and asking him to handle a live wire like Sanchez is like getting Mr Bean to operate a forklift truck! If he doesn’t score, he’ll cause problems and Lovren is in for a very long day with little defensive protection elsewhere.
Mario Balotelli v Per Mertesacker
At the other end, Arsenal have been similarly weak at the back, and the limitations of Per Mertesacker have been on full show. Admittedly he does have an unusual defensive partner with either Calum Chambers, Nacho Monreal or Mathieu Debuchy alongside him, but the German is slow and regularly caught out, especially on the counter. Balotelli could be ready to show Anfield what he has to offer by using his strength and nous to bully Mertesacker, despite previous poor form. Liverpool might be vulnerable, but they know Arsenal have similar tendencies to concede plenty, which could work to their advantage.
Raheem Sterling v Hector Bellerin
For the neutral viewer, we’re hoping Bellerin stays in the team despite the return of Laurent Koscielny any time soon, particularly so that he can go up against Raheem Sterling! The England youngster is in some form and has been Liverpool’s best player this season, and enjoyed playing against lower opposition against Bournemouth on Wednesday. Squaring up against Bellerin could be more of the same, and Sterling might get to enjoy himself once again and cause Arsenal real headaches. Moving into the central positions would also be interesting, as Mathieu Flamini is susceptible to pace, meaning there could be some rough treatment for Sterling. He’s wily enough to avoid that however, but a blood and thunder battle could reign, especially if Steven Gerrard thinks one of his side are getting knocked around the park!