One of the most highly anticipated fixtures on the Premier League calendar pits Liverpool and Arsenal against each other on Sunday afternoon.
After four consecutive road trips in all competitions, the Reds return to Anfield for the first time since a 7-0 demolition of Manchester United on March 5, seeking amends for a woeful run of form.
Back-to-back league losses at Bournemouth and Manchester City sandwiched Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat at Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, putting Jurgen Klopp under even more pressure.
Although an uneventful goalless draw at mid-table Chelsea on Tuesday ended Liverpool’s three-game losing streak, it wasn’t the result Klopp’s side needed to stay relevant in the Premier League top-four race.
Arsenal’s visit comes at the worst possible moment for the Merseyside underachievers, considering anything other than victory against the leaders could condemn them to a season with Champions League football.
In stark contrast to Liverpool’s frustrating season, the Gunners could be on the verge of breaking a two-decade wait for the Premier League title if everything goes according to plan.
Mikel Arteta’s team produced another rampant performance in a 4-1 demolition of bottom-half strugglers Leeds United last weekend, re-establishing an eight-point cushion at the summit.
But with second-placed Manchester City having a game in hand, Arsenal cannot afford premature celebrations as they aim to build on an eye-catching seven-matching winning streak in the Premier League.
A whopping ten points stand between Liverpool and fourth-placed Man United at the beginning of this round following the Reds’ poor run of three successive winless league matches (D1, L2).
While there seems to be no saving grace for Klopp’s side in what’s been a thoroughly disappointing season, they can at least draw some courage from an impressive home form.
Of 43 total points they’ve amassed in the Premier League this term, 70% have come at Anfield (30), where they are unbeaten in their last six league outings (W5, D1) since a 2-1 defeat to Leeds United in October.
That’s also Liverpool’s only home loss in England’s elite division this season (W9, D3), with only three sides boasting a better home record than the Reds.
Despite their ever-growing defensive issues, Klopp’s men have been nothing short of impressive in this regard at Anfield, keeping a clean sheet in all four home league matches in 2023 (W3, D1).
Liverpool will need that defensive resilience on Sunday if they’re to extend their stunning six-match winning top-flight run against Arsenal on home turf.
Since they scored at least three goals in each of those six victories, the Anfield crowd could be forgiven for anticipating a goal-glutted fixture despite their team’s sticky patch.
‘Goal-friendly’ contests have been a common theme in Arsenal’s recent Premier League outings, with Arteta’s side netting three or more goals in their last five league encounters.
The Gunners have won their last three away league games by an aggregate score of 8-2, including a 3-0 romping of fellow London rivals Fulham on their most recent travel.
Arsenal’s free-scoring form will offer the visitors a huge sigh of relief, given that they’ve managed to keep a clean sheet in only 20% of their Premier League meetings with Liverpool (12/61), last doing so in 2015.
The last time they kept the Reds at bay was in 2012, which hardly bodes well for their bid to complete a first Premier League double against them for the first time since 2009/10.
However, if a 3-2 victory in the reverse fixture is anything to go by, Arsenal will rely on their high-performing frontline to get them the result they need rather than expecting a leaky backline to shoulder the burden.
There’s also a piece of history up for grabs, as Arteta’s men could become the first Gunners team since 1903 to claim six consecutive league wins while scoring 3+ goals.
Meanwhile, after recording an impressive nine shut-outs on the road this season, Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale could become only the third shot-stopper in Premier League history to keep 10+ away clean sheets in a single season.
Player to Watch: Mohamed Salah
It must be him. In addition to racking up five goals and two assists in his five appearances against Arsenal at Anfield, Mohamed Salah has scored in his last three Premier League home outings.
And if Liverpool are to stand a chance against their high-flying visitors, the Egyptian must deliver.
Player to Watch: Gabriel Jesus
In his first Premier League start for Arsenal since November, Gabriel Jesus scored on either side of half-time to fire his side to an overwhelming win over Leeds last weekend.
Although he failed to find the net in the reverse fixture, his contribution was immense, as he provided an assist and drew a match-winning penalty for his team.
Teenage sensation Stefan Bajcetic won’t be ready to take this trip due to a muscular problem, and he’s not the only notable absentee in the middle of the park.
Outgoing Guinean star Naby Keita and injury-prone Thiago Alcantara are still on the sidelines, while Luis Diaz’s availability remains in the balance, even though he returned to training.
As for Arsenal, first-choice centre-back William Saliba is out with a back injury, like his defensive colleague Takehiro Tomiyasu, who picked up a knee issue during the Europa League match against Sporting Lisbon.
Moving higher up the pitch, Arteta won’t be able to call upon Mohamed Elneny, who’s yet to recover from a knock, and talented striker Eddie Nketiah, who’s dealing with an ankle injury.
Liverpool potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ibrahima Konate, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson; Fabinho, Harvey Elliott, Jordan Henderson; Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez, Mohamed Salah.
Arsenal potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Aaron Ramsdale; Oleksandr Zinchenko, Gabriel Magalhaes, Rob Holding, Ben White; Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey; Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka; Gabriel Jesus.
We Say: Liverpool 1-3 Arsenal
Some traditions are made to be broken, and this is a perfect occasion for Arsenal to break their ‘Anfield jinx’ and prove their title credentials against downtrodden hosts.
Liverpool may have yet to concede at home in the Premier League in 2023, but that will likely change against the Gunners’ free-flowing attack as we back the visitors to claim an emphatic win.
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