Liverpool v Arsenal: Match Preview - Suarez Can Cement Fourth Place
The history of this fixture goes back 180 games with both teams claiming 66 wins in what is undoubtedly the fixture of the weekend. A win for Liverpool will pile on the pressure for the other pretenders to the fourth qualifying spot for the Champions League (Should Manchester United not win the trophy this year and fail to claim fourth for themselves). Arsenal have generally had the better of Liverpool and since 2008 Liverpool have only claimed a solitary victory with Arsenal winning 6 times and the fixture being drawn 5 times.
This Liverpool however, whilst not being vintage just yet are certainly full of promise, skill and endeavour this season. Luis Suarez undoubtedly provides world-class menace up front and leads the Premier League goalscoring charts by some margin with 23 goals and with his partner Sturridge on a not too shabby 14 himself. Suarez was voted the FTBPro PFA Fans' Player of the Month for the third time this season and Champions League football would certainly be a fine reward for a fantastic season which lets not forget started late for the player.
Liverpool are still a work in progress and struggled against Chelsea and City which has seen them fall away as title contenders after being number 1 at Christmas. A win for Liverpool would certainly be a good gauge as to their Champions League pretensions as well as being a good shot in the arm following the disappointing away draw with West Brom. Liverpool have not finished in the top four since 2008 and that is likely to be the key factor for keeping hold of their star players as well as attracting new ones.
Rodgers is realistic with his ambitions for his team, ruling Liverpool out of the title race:
"We're a team and a group that is still evolving. We've gone from eighth to seventh last year.
"We're now looking at making a big jump into the top four. It doesn't mean it's any lack of ambition, it's the reality."
Arsenal have surprised many this season and remain at the summit of the Premier League after their London rivals Chelsea grabbed 3 points from Man City. Ozil, who most pundits would agree was the catalyst for change at Arsenal has gone a little quite in recent games and it will be interesting to see how Arsenal fare in the weeks ahead. Team selection may be a variable against Liverpool with the Manchester United fixture on Wednesday. Gibbs and Rosicky are available to replace Monreal and Podolski should he wish to rest them.
Wenger has predicted that the title race will go all the way to the end of the season:
"It is never as simple as everyone predicts it," Wenger said. "I said a long time ago that nobody will be absolutely above (the others). It will be down to consistency."
Chelsea became the first team to keep a clean sheet at the Etihad Stadium since Birmingham City in November 2010, but Wenger insists the match could have gone either way.
"Chelsea looked always dangerous and Man City looked for me a bit jaded," Wenger said.
"They were not as fluent or as strong physically as they were at Tottenham but it could have gone to 1-1, it could have gone 2-0 for Chelsea.
"At the end of the day, they (City) had 65 per cent possession with 25 shots on goal so sometimes that can be a 1-1, but I must say Chelsea had opportunities for the 2-0.
"At the moment this is the period, January, February, March, where every game is a battle for everybody because everybody fights for something. You just want to win the games."
Likely Team formation for Liverpool:
Likely Team formation for Arsenal:
Date: 8 Feb 2014
Game week: 25
Liverpool have won three and drawn two from their last six games whilst Arsenal have drawn just the one with four wins. Liverpool have home advantage and their home form has been strong this season.
Arsenal do have injuries which may yet prove decisive in their quest for the Premier League title having lost the services of Walcott and with Ramsey having a longer than expected spell on the injuries list. Flamini continues to serve his suspension and Diaby remains injured. Jack Wilshere is a doubt and may not be risked as a starter whilst Alex-Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to keep his midfield role following his brace against Crystal Palace.
Liverpool have no fresh injury concerns and Brendan Rodgers would be expected to name an unchanged starting XI. Luis Suarez fresh from his latest player accolade will lead the attack supported by Sturridge. Agger, Leiva, Johnson and Enrique remain sidelined.
Predictions: Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal
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