There has been some immense pressure building on Brendan Rodgers as the Liverpool manager, but he has said he felt some positives despite the 3-0 defeat at Manchester United last weekend. Those positives manifested themselves to a 1-3 win at Bournemouth in the League Cup Quarter Final on Wednesday, although Rodgers would have preferred seeing any team other than Chelsea in the Semi Final draw.
That Semi Final tie will be played over two weeks in January so Liverpool will look to close the gap on the top four in the Premier League over this festive period. The Reds are currently down in 11th place in the Premier League table and they are 7 points behind West Ham United in the final Champions League place. Liverpool will definitely need to improve at Anfield where they have a 3-3-2 record and have scored 7 goals and conceded 6 so far. Only Aston Villa (6) have scored fewer home goals than Liverpool this season, a far cry from last season.
Liverpool have only lost 1 of their last 7 games in all competitions and even that loss at Old Trafford could have been different if they had shown some composure in front of goal. They have also lost just 1 of their last 6 home games in all competitions, but the worry for Liverpool has been the fact they have only won 2 of those games although the win at Bournemouth should have restored some confidence.
Glen Johnson, Jon Flanaghan and Daniel Sturridge are all expected to be absent until the turn of the year. Mario Balotelli could be fit enough to earn a place in the squad despite missing the win at Bournemouth during the week, but Dejan Lovren picked up a knock during that game and may miss out.
Inconsistent results and performances from Arsenal has seen a clear split in the fan base with those still backing Arsene Wenger and those suggesting the manager moves on. Finishing in the top four looks the realistic goal for this season in the Premier League, but Arsenal have been given a kind draw in the Champions League and will be expected to move through to the Quarter Final by beating Monaco.
A comfortable win last weekend means Arsenal remain in 6th place in the Premier League, but they are now just 2 points behind the top four teams. The Gunners bring in a 3-2-3 away record from their games in the Premier League where they have scored 12 goals and conceded 10.
Arsenal have won 5 of their last 6 games in all competitions, although their last away game in the Premier League saw the side beaten 3-2 at Stoke City when they were 3-0 down by half time. They did bounce back by crushing Galatasaray 1-4 in Turkey, but Arsenal have lost 2 of their last 3 away games in the Premier League, although interchanged wins and losses in their last 6 on their travels in the League.
Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshire and Mesut Ozil will be missing out for Arsenal. Nacho Monreal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta are going to have to pass fitness tests to take part.
Head to Head
Arsenal beat Liverpool twice at home in the Premier League and FA Cup last season, but it was Liverpool who beat the Gunners 5-1 at Anfield in the League.
Liverpool had previously failed to win any of 5 home games against Arsenal before that game and Arsenal had won 3 of 4 visits to Anfield.
There were definitely some signs that Liverpool were turning a corner in their loss at Manchester United last weekend and they showed better composure in front of goal against Bournemouth during the week. It has been a really tough season for Brendan Rodgers, but beating Arsenal on Sunday will mean Liverpool are very much back in the hunt for the top four places in the Premier League.
However, the other side of the coin suggests a loss would already mean Liverpool have a huge mountain to overcome to get back into the Champions League, through the Premier League at least, and so this is a huge game for them at Anfield.
Raheem Sterling scored twice at Bournemouth in the League Cup, but I don’t think he is completely comfortable leading the line and has to show more composure in this big game if Liverpool are to win. Sterling was guilty of missing two gilt-edged chances against Manchester United last week and I do think he will get chances in this game as Arsenal continue to fight through their defensive problems.
And Liverpool will need to take their chances because Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud pose an attacking threat against a defence that has panicked when put under pressure all season. Dejan Lovren might have to sit out with a knock suffered at Bournemouth and Arsenal will definitely feel they can challenge Brad Jones in goal who doesn’t look an effective replacement for Simon Mignolet.
Both teams are likely to be more comfortable with the ball in possession and moving forward as neither defence has looked capable of securing too many clean sheets. Liverpool have conceded just one goal in their last 3 at Anfield, but Stoke City, Sunderland and Basel don’t have the same attacking threat as Arsenal.
On the other hand, Arsenal have kept just 2 clean sheets in their last 7 away games in all competitions and will be missing Laurent Koscielny in this one. It would be a surprise if both Liverpool and Arsenal don’t score in this one and the chances that likely will be created at both ends should lead to at least three goals scored in this one.