If you ask anyone in the world what the most important fixture is this weekend in the world of soccer you will get just one answer, and that is the clash of Liverpool and Arsenal this Saturday at Anfield.
Currently Arsenal is top of the English Premiership on 55 points just two points clear of joint second place Manchester City and Chelsea who fought an epic battle Monday night that saw Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium by a score of 0-1 which put both teams on 53 points, six points above Liverpool who are in fourth place on 47 points.
The Chelsea victory was the first loss Manchester City has experienced at home all season after having won their previous 11 matches in what was being called “The Fortress Etihad” to open up what is by now a clear three horse race for the title.
Arsenal is chasing its first trophy in nearly nine years and knows that a win over Liverpool is crucial for them if they want to keep the momentum going as we start a month that will see the Gunners play Liverpool twice (once in the FA Cup ) Manchester United and then last season’s Champions League winners Bayern Munich in the first-leg of their Champions League last 16 match at the Emirates a total of four tough games in just 11 days.
Liverpool is having their best start to a season since 2007/2008 when they finished fourth and have set their goal this season to finish in the top-four in order to qualify for next seasons Champions League and all the money that comes along playing in the sports most prestigious club competition.
Also important for Liverpool is that the man many people consider to be the best striker in the world right now Uruguayan Luis Suarez has complained in the past about his lack of playing in the top European competition giving rise to speculation that should Liverpool fail to finish in the top-four he will be looking to move clubs, and seeing how he is leading scorer in the English Premiership with 23 goals he will have suitors lining up for his services.
The last time the two clubs met was back on November 2nd at the Emirates Stadium in London where Arsenal put in a brilliant display totally dominating the entire midfield with goals coming from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey in what appeared to all watching an easy 2-0 victory that kept Arsenal in 1st place.
The Gunners will be facing a much more determined Liverpool when they meet on Merseyside where the Reds have only lost one game all season to a tough Southampton side that went away with a 0-1 win back in September.
The defensive pair of Koscielny and Mertesacker for Arsenal will be well aware of the threat posed by Liverpool’s Suarez and Sturridge while Liverpool will be hoping that Slovak international Martin Skrtel can do enough to restrain Arsenal front man Olivier Giroud.
Both teams are currently suffering through injury with Liverpool missing defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva who I think will be a big loss for Liverpool as was evident in their 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
I think we can expect Arsenal to be dominate in midfield as they were when the last time the two met which leads me to believe that Liverpool will go into the match knowing that they cannot compete in the center of the park so will opt to soak up the pressure looking to catch Arsenal on the break using the speed of Raheem Sterling and perhaps Victor Moses on the wing whose job it will be to get the ball to either Suarez or Sturridge.
The man to watch out for is Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin who just came back from injury to score both Arsenal goals in their 2-0 win over Crystal Palace last weekend, and while I can see the match going either way it is certainly there for Arsenal to win.
Liverpool 2-3 Arsenal
This match should produce plenty of goals that you can catch live on NBC Sports Saturday, February 8th at 7:45 a.m. ET