Arsenal takes on Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday in a match that could bolster their title credentials.
The two teams faced each other earlier in the season in a match that ended 0 – 0 at the Emirates. Both teams are in different places since then. Arsenal is top of the table by two points and Jürgen Klopp now manages Liverpool.
In his press conference ahead of the match, Arsene Wenger revealed he expects a tough challenge at Anfield, despite the slew of hamstring injuries to key players in the Liverpool squad.
“Every time we go to Anfield, we face a team who is up for it. It’s always a ferocious battle, no matter who the manager is.”
“They had a very strong manager before, they have a very strong one now and Klopp has the personality to do well there.”
Wenger will ring the changes after he significantly rotated his side over the weekend. Aaron Ramsey, Mathieu Flamini, and Mesut Özil will once again make up Arsenal’s midfield. Nacho Monreal and Per Mertesacker will return to Arsenal’s back four.
Alexis will miss out, although he has a chance to make the squad on Sunday versus Stoke City, according to the manager. No other players were reported injured from the weekend.
In fact, there is good news on the injury front as Tomas Rosicky has returned to training and Mikel Arteta is fully available after making his comeback off the bench in the FA Cup against Sunderland on Saturday. No word as of yet when Rosicky can be considered for selection.
Liverpool has had an up and down season and on paper Arsenal should be the favorites. However, Klopp has faired well against the big clubs this season and has done well against Arsenal with Dortmund in the past. This is a match to watch for the neutrals, as well.
Here is Arsenal’s strongest and most probable starting lineup against Liverpool on Sunday.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Petr Cech took his place in goal on Saturday after David Ospina was a late scratch due to a groin injury. Ospina has a chance to be considered for the squad again this week, but won’t start until Arsenal’s next match in the FA Cup.
Right Back – Bellerin
Hector Bellerin put in a quality performance on Saturday against Sunderland. He showed excellent defensive discipline and was a constant threat in attack, assisting two of Arsenal’s three goals.
After the match, Wenger was asked if Bellerin is the best right back in the league. The manager chuckled, and conceded that what Bellerin has done at the age of 20 is remarkable but there is still more to come from him.
Center Backs – Mertesacker & Koscielny
Mertesacker returns to the lineup to partner up with Laurent Koscielny.
Mertesacker’s French teammate made a mess of things early on in Saturday’s match. Koscielny’s decision to not immediately clear a Kieran Gibbs back-pass led to a turnover, which Jeremain Lens dutifully took advantage of with a well place shot beyond Cech.
The duo will have their hands full with Christian Benteke, although they did well against him in the FA Cup Final last May.
Left Back – Monreal
Reports are circulating this week that Monreal has signed a new deal that will keep him with the club until 2019. Wenger all but confirmed that a deal was signed and indicated that a few details are being hashed out at the moment.
Monreal has turned into one of Arsenal most reliable and consistent players.
Defensive Mid – Flamini
Flamini returns to the side after being rested over the weekend. The rest should have allowed him to fully recuperate from an ankle injury that had been bothering him the past week.
Although Arteta is back in contention, Flamini is likely to keep the Spaniard out of the squad for the time being based on his performances the past month and a half.
Arteta is not physically capable of being involved in a consecutive run of games and will be used in certain situations for the rest of the season.
Central Mid – Ramsey
Ramsey came on as a sub on Saturday and turned the match on it’s head. He scored Arsenal’s second after some exciting inter play with Bellerin and provided a major energy boost to Arsenal’s midfield.
With Ramsey on the pitch, Arsenal are a much more balanced team. He has improved his defensive discipline and is always a threat going forward.
Attacking Mid – Özil
Özil was granted a well-deserved rest on Saturday. In his place, young Alex Iwobi started and played well.
After the match, Bellerin jokingly claimed Arsenal can do just fine without Özil, to which Özil responded in similar jovial fashion.
— Héctor Bellerín (@HectorBellerin) January 9, 2016
Özil will look to take advantage of Liverpool’s high-pressing game, with Arsenal likely to rely on the counter attack, taking Liverpool off guard.
Wide Right – Campbell
Joel Campbell put in another excellent display on Saturday. He was by far Arsenal’s best performer, keeping himself ahead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the pecking order.
Campbell is playing with real confidence and an opportunity to play at Anfield is what the Costa Rican deserves.
Despite his quality performances, Campbell will likely find a place for himself on the bench when Alexis returns. His form this season has put him in serious contention for more involvement the rest of the season, though, and his Arsenal career is officially back on track.
Wide Left – Walcott
Theo Walcott had a good match on Saturday. He assisted Arsenal’s first goal with a left-foot pull back that Campbell coolly slotted in the bottom corner.
There is an argument to made that Campbell, not Walcott, could start once Alexis is fit to start again. It will be interesting to see what the manager chooses, however, considering Walcott’s attacking qualities and new willingness to defend, the Englishman is likely the manager’s choice opposite the Chilean.
Striker – Giroud
Olivier Giroud scored an excellent team goal to finish off Sunderland on Saturday. Bellerin put the ball on a silver platter for Giroud to calmly stroke into the open net late in the second half.
He had a somewhat frustrating afternoon due to a lack of service but was an industrious worker the entire match. His goal was a reward for the hard work he put in.
Giroud could use a rest and signs of fatigue started to creep in on Saturday. But because the Frenchman tends to score in bunches, Wenger may see if he can ride the hot hand for now.
Via – Lineup Builder