Saturday 18 November 2017

Arsenal v Liverpool: Five talking points ahead of crunch clash

Liverpool's Martin Skrtel (2nd L) scores a goal against Arsenal
Liverpool's Martin Skrtel (2nd L) scores a goal against Arsenal

Liverpool travel to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday lunchtime, keen to get their Barclays Premier League campaign back on track after suffering a 2-1 loss to Manchester United last time out.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at some of the main talking points in the build-up to a match between two of the sides battling it out for a top-four finish.

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Liverpool's Steven Gerrard was sent off for a nasty stamp on Ander Herrera just 38 seconds after he had come on as substitute

Lack of discipline leaves Liverpool short

One of the big casualties of the defeat against United was the dramatic sending-off of Steven Gerrard, just 38 seconds after his appearance as a half-time substitute.

He has struggled for fitness and form lately, so his absence may not be felt as strongly as it once was, but the same cannot be said of Martin Skrtel. The defender was given a retrospective ban after a stamp on David de Gea, which means Brendan Rodgers will be without his first-choice centre-back and may be forced to call on the likes of Kolo Toure or Glen Johnson, who have failed to impress this season.

Arsenal's Danny Welbeck in action with Newcastle's Moussa Sissoko

Can Arsenal challenge for the title?

Arsene Wenger's men have been on a terrific run of form in the league, with six wins in a row shooting them up the table into third. Once considered most likely to miss out on the final Champions League spot, Arsenal are now outsiders for the title, and given their form could be the closest challengers for Chelsea.

The Gunners will be confident and an added steel to their play has seen them pick up wins over Manchester City and United in recent times, with Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla key to their recent success, but the expected absence of Danny Welbeck could hit them hard, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain already out.

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Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling insists he is not "a money-grabbing 20-year-old" as his contract wrangle rumbles on

How will the Arsenal defence deal with the pace of Raheem Sterling?

The Arsenal defence may still have painful memories of last season's 5-1 loss at Anfield, where the lack of pace in their defence was so ruthlessly exposed by Sterling et al. Daniel Sturridge will miss out with another injury, but that may prove to be a blessing in disguise given the striker's lack of form. Sterling also has fitness issues - his toe ruled him out of England's trip to Italy - but he should return to lead the Liverpool attack, where he combines so well with Philippe Coutinho and will target Per Mertesacker, who struggles against quick players and relies on Laurent Koscielny to bail him out at times.

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Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

Rodgers outwitted by Champions League rivals

They stunned many with their all-out attack approach in 2014, but Liverpool have struggled to reach those same heights this season, particularly against the top four.

In head-to-heads, the Reds have claimed just four points from their six games against their rivals without the magic of Luis Suarez to unlock defences, but the role of underdogs could suit them as they look to hit Arsenal on the counter.

Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil has his sights set on becoming the best player in the world

Has Mesut Ozil finally found his groove?

The enigmatic German has come in under the radar in recent weeks, but it is no coincidence that Ozil's return from injury in January marked a return to form for the side.

Since his comeback, Arsenal have won nine games out of 10, with the playmaker contributing two goals and five assists in that time. He may finally be starting to deliver on the hefty price tag which brought huge expectations with it, but we are yet to see him link up effectively with Alexis Sanchez, who has scored just once since Ozil's return at home to Stoke.

With Theo Walcott expected to be recalled, Ozil could be given the space to flourish in the centre of the park, but is likely to have Joe Allen and Emre Can for company.

Press Association

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