The Arsenal-Liverpool clash at Emirates Stadium on Saturday morning is very important on both fronts. The game is slated for 7:45 a.m. (ET) and will be televised on BT Sport 1 and NBC Sports Network.
Arsenal (18-6-6) enters the match in third place of the English Premier League with 60 points while Liverpool (16-6-8) is currently sitting in fifth place with 54 points. Arsenal is just one point ahead of fourth place Manchester United and one point behind second place.
Arsenal has been the hottest team in the Premier League, winning nine of the past 10 matches. The Gunners have also won eight straight at home, where they play on Saturday. Overall, Arsenal has posted 21 wins, one draw, and four losses in the last 26 matches.
Arsenal is coming off a 2-1 road victory over Newcastle as Olivier Giroud scored two first half goals. Giroud, who tallied five goals in EPL matches in the month of March, was selected as the Premier League Player of the Month.
The Gunners have been playing spectacular soccer since Aaron Ramsey returned from injury, according to Ian Drake of ESPN FC. Arsenal won all six of their March contest and outscored its opponents 15-3. The Gunners also registered three clean sheets.
With the Gunners playing so well and just seven points behind EPL leader Chelsea, does Arsenal have a legitimate shot at capturing the league crown? Arsenal manager Arsene Wagner, who was named the EPL’s Manager of the Month for March, didn’t want anything to do with that talk.
“We have the aspiration to the win the next game, and that’s quite good enough,” Wenger responded during his news conference on Friday. “After that, win the next one.”
Giroud and Alexis Sanchez paces Arsenal with 13 goals apiece. Santi Cazorla (eight) and Sanchez (seven) are first and second on the squad in assists. However, Sanchez has only netted one goal in the past 12 games.
Arsenal does have some injury issues, according to the Daily Mail, as forward Danny Walback suffered a knee injury while with England’s National Team. Captain Mike Arteta, full-back Mathieu Debuchy, and midfielders Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere will also be assessed while midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring) is out.
Liverpool is coming off a 2-1 loss to Manchester United. The Reds are 3-1-1 in their last five EPL matches, but they struggle on the road. Liverpool is 8-1-5 in its league road games and has just a plus-three goal difference (19-16) in those matches.
ESPN FC bloggers David Usher and Andrew Mangan believe Liverpool needs a draw, at the very least, in the match or the Reds will have no shot at making the all-important Champions League — EPL teams must finish in the top four to qualify for the elite competition. The Reds will have seven league games remaining after their match against the Gunners.
“Oh, absolutely. The defeat to United has left the Reds on the brink because games are running out and they’re playing catch-up,” Usher said. “Defeat at the Emirates would mean they’d most likely have to win every game — including a trip to Stamford Bridge (Chelsea) — to have any hope of overhauling Manchester United or Arsenal. A vastly inferior goal difference makes the job doubly hard, although an 8-0 win on Saturday would turn that around nicely!”
The Reds have many issues heading into the key match against the Gunners, not the least of which being Raheem Sterling’s contract issues. It is feared that Sterling will be thinking about his next contract and not fully engaged in the match. The 20-year-old midfielder is tied for the team lead with six goals and six assists.
Liverpool will be without midfielders Martin Skretel and captain Steven Gerrard as they begin their three-game suspensions. Striker Daniel Sturridge is expected to be ready to go against the Gunners, as he has recovered from a hip injury, according to the Daily Mail.
Gerrard is tied with Sterling for the squad’s lead in goals while Sturridge is third on the team with four goals. Midfielder Jordan Henderson has seven assists.
Even more bad news for the Reds is that they are just 1-7-10 in their past 18 contests against the Gunners in all competitions. Liverpool leads the all-time series 70-63 and there have 48 draws.
Predictions: Arsenal is the overwhelming favorites and both Usher and Mangan has the Gunners winning 2-1.
Update: Arsenal struck for three goals in a matter of eight minutes and cruised to a 4-1 victory. Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud each tallied a score for the Gunners.
[Photo image via ESPN FC]