Premier League leaders face a tough challenge to their title bid as they prepare for the trip to Anfield on Wednesday. On the other side, Liverpool are in deep injury crisis and their sheer optimism and Klopp’s infectious enthusiasm just might prove insufficient for a positive result against the title challengers.
The Reds enter the derby match of the Premier League round 21 twelve points short of their Wednesday opposition and six adrift of the UEFA Champions League places. Jurgen Klopp’s team has all the chances in the world of turning the fortunes around and making the current campaign a successful one, but their bids are severely threatened by a serious injury crisis. The German tactician has been forced to recall goalkeeper Danny Ward from Aberdeen to increase the competition for a place between the sticks and he also brought back Tiago Illori from Aston Villa. The 22-year-old centre-back has already made his long-awaited Liverpool debut in the 2-2 FA Cup draw against Exeter City. Disappointing results against the League Two outfit has left no one surprised, but Liverpool are still on a positive stretch as they have suffered only one loss in their last five games in all competitions. Arsenal visit will be the strongest challenge yet to the weakened Reds and possible victory against the Gunners would surely be a major morale boost. Liverpool have already shown they are capable of beating the top four teams having dispatched the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Leicester City this term. Klopp’s team is bracing for a double trouble as they will also host Manchester United at Anfield next weekend.
There are some positive news for Liverpool fans as Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho are in line to make their return to the fold. However, Jordon Ibe is the last one to be added to the mounting injury list. Team’s captain Jordan Henderson continues to suffer from a heel problem, while Daniel Sturridge could return next weekend.
Jon Flanagan, Jordan Rossiter, Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi, Philippe Coutinho, Martin Skrtel, Danny Ings and Joe Gomez are all ruled out through their respective injuries.
Arsene Wenger understands what his rivalling manager is going through, as Arsenal are no strangers to injury headaches. The French manager has mastered his skills of coping with great team problems and his side managed to keep their consistency throughout the season so far, not letting the team problem affect their title chase. London-based club find themselves top of the league midway through the campaign with two-point cushion ahead of Leicester City. Liverpool are indeed a great challenge to Arsenal’s Premier League bid, but the Gunners are in excellent form and are coming to Anfield in high spirits. Only one loss and one draw in last ten games across competitions has been a major feat for Wenger’s troops, who have their star player Mesut Ozil to thank for the fantastic performances that followed their great results. German genius continues his hunt for Thierry Henry’s all-time Premier League assist record. Ozil has managed 16 so far and is only 4 short of the record number. Arsenal have seemingly improved their on the road form with the December win over Aston Villa, but have to be cautious coming to Anfield. In his efforts to increase the team’s title chances, Arsene Wenger is ready to make transfer moves in January and Mohamed Elneny is expected to be one of a couple additions to the team.
Arsenal are still without their key player Alexis Sanchez, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since the end of November.
David Ospina is facing a late fitness test, while Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Francis Coquelin and Santi Casorla are all ruled out. Meanwhile, Ozil and Flamini are getting back in the squad.
Key Factors to consider
- Liverpool miss no less than 11 first-team players for the Wednesday clash
- There have been under 2.5 goals scored in 4 of Liverpool’s last 5 matches
- Arsenal have won 5 of their last 6 Premier League duels
- Mesut Ozil provided 16 Premier League assists this season
- Gunners shipped in only 18 goals in the Premier League so far
The marquee game of the midweek round is expected to offer a lot of excitement to the crowd at Anfield. Liverpool know their way around the teams from top four, but their entire team’s worth of injuries does not make them favourites to come out on top against the title challengers. A low scoring affair is expected with Arsenal likely to emerge victorious.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 8/5