Arsenal vs Liverpool - Match preview and predicted line-ups
Undoubtedly the pick of the opening weekend’s game will take place at the Emirates, as the Gunners welcome Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to kick off their campaign in 2016/17. Selected as the highlight of Sky Sports’ first Super Sunday of the season with a 16:00 kick off, Arsene Wenger will face his first challenge with a number of key players out of action. Despite last season’s 3-3 thriller at Anfield ending with Joe Allen netting an injury time winner, the Merseyside club have beaten their London counterparts only twice in eighteen attempts since 2008 and Klopp will be seeking to turn that record around this weekend.
The Gunners have been impressive throughout pre-season, recording four victories and a draw, and was topped off with a 3-2 victory over Manchester City last weekend. Whilst many of their stars have been missing due to prolonged breaks after the Euros and Copa America, Arsene Wenger has had the opportunity to test his squad depth, with the likes of Alex Iwobi and Chuba Akpom given chances to impress.
Liverpool’s pre-season form has been inconsistent at best. Whilst the highs have been spectacular, it doesn’t come much better than beating Barcelona 4-0 at Wembley in front of 90,000, there have been plenty of lows, as typified by a weakened side being defeated 4-0 by FSV Mainz 05 just 24 hours later. Defeats to Roma and Chelsea overshadowed victories over AC Milan, Huddersfield, Wigan, Fleetwood and Tranmere, but Reds fans will hope that their better form is on show on Sunday.
Arsenal will look to solve their defensive crisis by using Nacho Monreal’s flexibility and two youngsters in Rob Holding and Callum Chambers. The side is still a strong one despite those injuries, with Francis Coquelin in contention for a midfield spot. Aaron Ramsey is expected to fill in for Mesut Ozil in a more advanced midfield role whilst Alexis Sanchez will play centrally without Olivier Giroud available to the Gunners.
Much for Liverpool will depend upon the fitness of Joel Matip and James Milner, who would most likely slot in to defence if fit at the expense of Ragnar Klavan and Alberto Moreno. Georgino Wijnaldum could also be in contention but is expected to miss out to captain Jordan Henderson, whilst Klopp is expected to stick with the attacking trio which devastated Barcelona’s defence rather than play Divock Origi as a long striker.
Arsenal predicted starting XI Liverpool predicted starting XI
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Arsenal face an injury crisis in defence as Gabriel Paulista was stretchered off from last week’s friendly against Manchester City with ankle ligament damage, with Per Mertesacker out with a knee injury and Laurent Koscielny not yet match fit after an extended post-Euro 2016 break. Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud are also likely to miss out for the same reason.
Liverpool have injury problems of their own too, with new signings Loris Karius and Marko Grujic out with hand and ankle injuries respectively. There are doubts over the fitness of James Milner, substituted with a foot injury in the 4-0 victory over Barcelona, and Daniel Sturridge who missed the last two pre-season fixtures due to a hip problem, whilst Mamadou Sakho, Joe Gomez and Lucas Leiva will all miss out with long term injuries. Joel Matip should return having played a role in the final friendly against Mainz.
It’s almost a shame that this games come so early on in the season, with the likes of Ozil and Giroud set to miss out due to their short pre-season, and before both teams really get going. Typically, Arsenal start the season well under Arsene Wenger, having lost on the opening day just three times since the Frenchman’s arrival, but Jurgen Klopp’s side have shown hints of some sensational football this pre-season and have the most threatening attacking line-up since the famous SAS of Sturridge and Suarez up against an injury struck Arsenal defence. For us, this one is too close to call, and with both sides still getting their fitness back as they work towards being their best, our prediction is a disappointing opening day draw.
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