Arsenal - Liverpool Preview: Wenger and Rodgers battle for top four spot
The Gunners are four points off the Champions League qualifying places, while the visitors need a victory to keep their European hopes alive after a shock FA Cup exit to Oldham
By Tom J Doyle
Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs
Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski
Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson
Suarez, Gerrard, Sterling
Thomas Vermaelen should be back in the Arsenal defence after missing out against Brighton with an ankle injury.
Mikel Arteta (calf) is scheduled to return for the game, but either Abou Diaby or Aaron Ramsey may play instead with the Spaniard lacking full match fitness.
Francis Coquelin (hamstring) may well miss out for the hosts, as will reserve goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (ankle). Gervinho is absent as he is on international duty with the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Some of Liverpool's younger players may be dropped by Brendan Rodgers after the manager said he felt "let down" by them during Liverpool's shock 3-2 FA Cup defeat away to Oldham on Sunday.
Jose Reina, however, is expected to return after a hip injury, so Brad Jones will most likely lose his place after making a bad mistake to gift Oldham their second goal.
Andre Wisdom will probably continue at right-back despite the probable return of Jose Enrique, with Glen Johnson filling in at left-back - although Johnson himself is struggling with a hamstring injury.
Martin Kelly (knee) is a long-term absentee, and is only expected back at the end of March.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 earlier in the premier League season at Anfield, with goals from Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla.
- The Gunners only have one win (West Ham) from their last four league games, drawing with Southampton and losing to Chelsea and Manchester United.
- Arsene Wenger's side have also lost two of their past five league home games, but won the other three.
- Theo Walcott (pictured, right) leads the club's goalscoring charts with 17 in all competitions, and has just signed a new deal with the club.
- Liverpool's away league form has been poor this season, with three wins, four draws and four defeats.
- Brendan Rodgers' side have lost three of their last five away games, but have won the other two.
- Luis Suarez is integral to liverpool's goal output - he has 21 in all competitions, and his nearest team-mate is Steven Gerrard with just six.
- Both Arsenal and Liverpool have conceded fewer goals than league leaders Manchester United, but are 19 and 22 points behind them respectively.
- Liverpool won 2-0 at the Emirates in the league last season courtesy of an Aaron Ramsey own goal and a Luis Suarez strike.
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Top 3 Predictions
Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
- 13.72 %
Arsenal 3-1 Liverpool
- 13.31 %
Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool
- 12.91 %
|England - Premier League (EPL)||Nov 2, 2013||Arsenal 2 - Liverpool 0|
|England - Premier League (EPL)||Jan 30, 2013||Arsenal 2 - Liverpool 2|
|England - Premier League (EPL)||Sep 2, 2012||Liverpool 0 - Arsenal 2|
|England - Premier League (EPL)||Mar 3, 2012||Liverpool 1 - Arsenal 2|
|England - Premier League (EPL)||Aug 20, 2011||Arsenal 0 - Liverpool 2|
|Dec 4, 2013||Arsenal 2 - Hull 0||EPL|
|Nov 30, 2013||Cardiff City 0 - Arsenal 3||EPL|
|Nov 26, 2013||Arsenal 2 - Olympique de Marseille 0||UCL|
|Nov 23, 2013||Arsenal 2 - Southampton 0||EPL|
|Nov 10, 2013||Man Utd. 1 - Arsenal 0||EPL|
The France international has had an odd first season in the Premier League. He has 13 goals and nine assists from 32 appearances in all competitions - a healthy return - but one can't help but feel Gunners fans are judging him by the standards set by Robin van Persie. However, the striker is in form at this moment in time, and two goals against Brighton on Saturday means Liverpool should be wary of him.
The young England forward now has the chance to show the country exactly what he can do. Blessed with skill, pace and power, Sturridge could well be a key signing for Rodgers, and his partnership with Luis Suarez already looks promising. However, it is in games like the one at the Emirates where his worth will be truly tested - it is time for the real Daniel Sturridge to step forward.
Both teams are desperate to qualify for the Champions league next season, and are struggling in their own ways. With the sides near to full-strength, it should be an evenly contested game. Arsenal have defended well this season but Luis Suarez has been in sensational form, and the hosts would do well to keep a clean sheet for 90 minutes. However, with Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud netting a few of late, there should be goals at both ends.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed