Best odds: 14/5
The FA Cup encounter between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium promises to be an exciting one, offering a break from the Premier League title race for both teams.
Arsenal faced a setback in their last match of 2023, succumbing to a 2-1 defeat against Fulham. Meanwhile, Liverpool continued their impressive run into the new year by securing a 4-2 victory over Newcastle United, strengthening their lead at the top of the Premier League table.
Arsenal’s recent form has been inconsistent, with a noticeable struggle in both defensive solidity and attacking prowess. Mikel Arteta’s side faced a disappointing defeat against West Ham, followed by another loss against Fulham, highlighting concerns about their overall performance.
The Gunners’ shortcomings in attack have been evident, leading to a dip in their league position and a need to bolster their squad in the upcoming transfer window, especially in areas like left-back and potentially midfield and attack, where reinforcements could be necessary.
Despite their struggles in the league, Arsenal have historically excelled in the FA Cup, having a rich history and winning the competition a record 14 times. However, their recent FA Cup campaigns have been underwhelming, failing to progress beyond the fourth round since their last triumph in 2020. Last time out, they lost at that stage to Manchester City, eventual treble winners in 2022/23.
Meanwhile, in the Premier League, Arsenal are in fourth place, five points behind Liverpool, two behind Aston Villa, and with the same tally as Manchester City in third, though the reigning champions have a better goal-difference and a game in hand. To make things worse, the Gunners also have arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur breathing down their necks with just a point separating the two North London teams, which puts even Champions League qualification under a question mark at this point.
Tahekiro Tomiyasu recovered to make the bench against Fulham and entered the fray in the second half, but he is now away on international duty, representing Japan at the Asian Cup. Mohammed Elneny is also away, set to play for Egypt at the African Cup of Nations.
Thomas Partey will not be playing for Ghana at the continental tournament, but he is still unavailable after a thigh operation, as are Jurrien Timber (ACL) and Fabio Vieira (groin).
Oleksandr Zinchenko could yet make the squad, but his inclusion is in question because of a calf problem, which, along with Tomiyasu’s absence, puts manager Mikel Arteta in a difficult situation regarding the left defensive flank.
Liverpool were initially frustrated due to their inability to convert chances at home on New Year’s Day. With Martin Dubravka’s impressive penalty save from Mohamed Salah playing a huge part, Newcastle remarkably preserved a clean sheet heading into halftime.
Even though Alexander Isak and Sven Botman managed to breach Alisson Becker’s goal in front of the Kop, Liverpool eventually found their scoring touch, netting four goals themselves at the other end. A brace from Salah, along with goals from Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo from close range, secured Liverpool’s victory and place at the top of the table.
Anfield witnessed a historic Premier League moment on January 1, with Liverpool registering a record-breaking 7.27 expected goals (xG), the highest ever recorded by an English top-flight team. This remarkable triumph now places them three points ahead of Aston Villa at the summit of the Premier League standings.
Now back on the road, Liverpool, on a quest to secure their ninth FA Cup, aim to build on their consistent scoring record, having scored in 18 consecutive games away since a goalless draw against Chelsea in April. However, their defence of the 2021/22 title, won incidentally after a goalless final against Chelsea, ended abruptly with a fourth-round exit to Brighton and Hove Albion in the previous term.
Moreover, Liverpool have faced disappointment in their recent FA Cup encounters against Arsenal, having fallen short in their last three meetings. The Gunners notably defeated them 2-1 at the Emirates on their way to clinching the 2013đ/14 trophy. The 1-1 draw at Anfield in December extended Arsenal’s unbeaten streak against Liverpool to three games, posing a challenge for the Reds in this competition.
The absent Arsenal duo of Elneny and Tomiyasu will be joined by Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Wataru Endo for Egypt and Japan, respectively, on international duty. Salah’s absence is a particularly notable moment, though Endo has been showing steady progress in recent Premier League fixtures as well.
Ben Doak (knee), Kostas Tsimikas (collarbone), Thiago Alcantara (hip), Stefan Bajcetic (calf), Andrew Robertson (shoulder), and Joel Matip (ACL) won’t be available. Adding to the setback, Jurgen Klopp received another blow with Dominik Szoboszlai, who sustained a hamstring injury during the Newcastle victory.
While their opponents enjoy a 13-day break following Sunday’s game, Liverpool’s schedule continues with a quick turnaround for the Carabao Cup semifinal against Fulham on Wednesday. Consequently, players like Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo and Ryan Gravenberch are likely to benefit from squad rotation in the upcoming fixtures.
While Arsenal have struggled recent struggles in the attacking third, it remains intriguing to observe how Liverpool will manage without Salah in that respect.
Initially favoring a fully fit Liverpool squad to secure a victory at the Emirates this weekend, the loss of an indispensable attacker might result in Klopp’s team being held to a draw by an Arsenal side keen on rectifying recent shortcomings. This scenario could lead to a replay, a situation that neither manager will have desired.
Best odds: 14/5
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