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    Liverpool vs Arsenal Match Preview

     
    Liverpool will be hoping to bounce back from Monday night's disappointing performance against Leicester City when they entertain Arsenal at Anfield this weekend.

    Both teams have dropped vital points in the league since the turn of the year, meaning that Saturday's encounter will be a battle for Champions League places as opposed to a title showdown.

    A victory for Arsenal would put Arsene Wenger's side four points clear of their North West opponents with a game in hand, while a Liverpool win would enable The Reds to climb as high as third in the table.

    Liverpool

    It appeared that Liverpool had finally turned the corner following an impressive 2-0 win over Tottenham on February 11, but the 3-1 loss to Leicester last Monday highlighted some old weaknesses that have yet to be fully resolved.

    Liverpool had no answer to Leicester's high-tempo approach, in which they put the put the visitors' often maligned-defence under spells of intense pressure and utilised the pace of Jamie Vardy at every opportunity.

    Whereas Jurgen Klopp's side had the firepower in the final third of the field to mask the club's defensive shortcomings in the first half of the season, the likes of Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho have struggled with their form in 2017.

    Firmino has scored in only two of his last 19 games in all competitions, while Lallana is on the same 11-game goalscoring drought that Coutinho had been on prior to the Brazilian's consolation goal against Leicester.

    Coutinho was the one shining light in an otherwise disappointing Liverpool performance, with the 24-year-old showing the kind of dazzling footwork he had displayed in the opening months of the season before sustaining an ankle injury in late-November.

    Liverpool's hopes of securing a morale-boosting win against Arsenal will be improved if Dejan Lovren is declared fit to start the game, although Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge both remain on the sidelines through injury.

    The Reds have struggled in matches against Arsenal over recent times, winning just three of their last 19 encounters, although they did win a classic at The Emirates Stadium on the opening weekend of the season.

    Arsenal

    Arsene Wenger has come under intense pressure in recent weeks following his side's inconsistent form, with speculation growing that this season could be the Frenchman's last after 21 years at the club.

    The Gunners suffered back-to-back defeats against Watford and Chelsea a month ago, effectively ending their already-forlorn title hopes, while Antonio Conte's side have shown no let-up in their pursuit of another Premier League crown.

    The disappointment was compounded with a 5-1 mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich, which sees Wenger's side facing the prospect of a seventh consecutive exit from the Champions League in the round of 16.


    While many Arsenal fans remain dissatisfied at the club's failure to win the Premier League since 2004 and reach the Champions League quarter-finals since 2010, there are teams who would be willing to swap places with the Gunners.

    Wenger's side remain on course to qualify for the Champions League for the 20th consecutive season, while victory at home to non-league Lincoln City in the FA Cup next weekend would secure the club a place at Wembley.

    The Gunners have not played since a win on the 3G pitch of non-league Sutton United 12 days ago, with last weekend's fixture against Southampton being postponed due to The Saints' participation in the EFL Cup final.

    Mesut Ozil is expected to play despite suffering from illness in the week, while Alexis Sanchez continues his pursuit of becoming the Premier League's top scorer where he leads the way on 17 goals and eight assists.

    Liverpool Team News

    Dejan Lovren, who has featured this week in training, will be assessed prior to kick-off and could return to the Liverpool side having missed the last three matches with a knee injury.

    Captain Jordan Henderson is absent once again with a bruised foot, while Daniel Sturridge has recovered from a virus but misses out due to a hip muscle strain he picked-up during a rehab session.

    Serbian international Marko Grujic remains of the sidelines, having still not fully-recovered from a hamstring tendon injury, while Ovie Ejaria is also absent after suffering an ankle ligament injury in January.

    Danny Ings and Adam Bogdan, who both sustained long-term knee injuries last autumn, are not expected to feature again this season.

    Arsenal Team News

    Mesut Ozil had been a doubt after missing Thursday's training session due to illness but the German, who was rested for the trip to Sutton 12 days ago, is expected to play.

    Laurent Koscielny is ready to make his comeback from the hamstring injury he picked-up during the 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich, which caused the Frenchman to leave the field shortly after half-time.

    Midfielder Aaron Ramsey also returns to the Arsenal squad having missed the last four matches with a calf strain, although Mohamed Elneny will be out for the next three weeks due to an ankle problem.

    The club were dealt a blow late last month with the news that Santi Cazorla will miss the rest of the season with a plantaris injury.

    Head-to-head

    Arsenal have fared well against Liverpool for most of Arsene Wenger's time at the club, although a solitary win and two draws were the best his side could muster in his first 11 meetings with the 18-time champions of England.

    The Gunners have won 18 and drawn 14 of the subsequent 39 matches against Saturday's opponents, although they haven't beaten The Reds in any of the last three meetings which included a 4-3 defeat in August.

    Liverpool had led 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium on the opening weekend of the season after a devastating 18-minute spell either side of half-time, although The Gunners finished strongly to set-up a grandstand finish.

    Jurgen Klopp's team hold a narrow lead in the all-time head-to-head against Arsenal, winning 84 times to The Gunners' 78 victories, although 59 of the 221 meetings have ended in draws.

    Score Prediction

    Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal
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    Item Reviewed: Liverpool vs Arsenal Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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