21 December 2017

Liverpool at Arsenal 12.22.17

2:45pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
4-0 Liverpool (h) 08.27.17
3-1 Liverpool (h) 03.04.17
4-3 Liverpool (a) 08.14.16
3-3 (h) 01.13.16

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 4-0 Bournemouth (a); 0-0 West Brom (h); 1-1 Everton (h)
Arsenal: 1-0 West Ham (h); 1-0 Newcastle (h); 0-0 West Ham (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Salah 14; Firmino 6; Coutinho 5; Mané 4; Sturridge 2; Alex O-C, Can, Henderson, Lovren, Matip, Wijnaldum 1
Arsenal: Lacazette 8; Alexis, Giroud 4; Özil, Ramsey, Welbeck 3; Monreal 2; Iwobi, Kolasinac, Mertesacker, Mustafi 1

Referee: Martin Atkinson (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Gomez Lovren Klavan Milner
Can Henderson Coutinho
Salah Firmino Mané

There will have been five days since Liverpool's last match when this kicks off. It's the longest spell between matches since an international break a little more than a month ago. Does this mean we're still getting fairly substantial rotation?

Considering that, starting with this, Liverpool will have four games in ten days, yes, yes we probably are.

But Liverpool have options. Good options.

I think the above is the most likely formation. Maybe Oxlade-Chamberlain for Can, given form and Can not signing a new contract and Oxlade-Chamberlain desperate to play against his old side. It seems a toss-up between Robertson and Milner; the former is an actual left-back who's looked increasingly good in successive starts, but there's also the experienced 'devil you know, safe pair of hands' in Milner.

But I'm also very tempted to guess the increasingly-seen-away-from-home 4-4-2. That back four, but a front six of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson, Can, Coutinho; Firmino, Salah. It's been fun, it gets Liverpool's best players on form all into the attack, and it can absolutely maul sides on the counter-attack.

However, I find it hard to believe that Sadio Mané will be left out of successive matches when available, although he is an option in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain in this formation. I'm not sure that Liverpool will want to play 4-4-2 against Arsenal's likely 4-2-3-1, against a side that doesn't need to be drawn out for Liverpool to have space. Liverpool's 4-3-3 pressing formation – which we saw in full effect at Bournemouth – has done well against Arsenal every time they've met since Klopp became manager.

So we're guess the above. Not that I've had much luck guessing XIs or formations lately.

Meanwhile, Arsenal. One point behind Liverpool in fifth. They've failed to score more than once in their last four games, but are unbeaten in those four with three clean sheets. Arsenal have an outstanding home record, with eight wins and one loss in the league, that wacky how-did-we-end-up-with-this-scoreline 1-3 defeat to United at the beginning of the month the only dropped points.

With a handful of injuries piling up, Wenger has reverted to a 4-2-3-1 in recent matches. Ramsey and Giroud are out injured, while Mustafi and Coquelin are doubtful. If Mustafi's not fit, it'll probably be Monreal at center-back with Kolasinac or Maitland-Niles at left-back.

It seems unlikely that anyone who started the 1-0 Legaue Cup win against West Ham will start tomorrow. So let's guess Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Wilshere, Xhaka; Iwobi, Özil, Alexis; Lacazette. And we'll probably be closer in that guess than we are with Liverpool's XI.

This fixture has had goals since Klopp took over. 3-3, 4-3, 3-1, 4-0. Liverpool have had goals lately, scoring at least three goals in nine of the last 12 matches unbeaten, including four, three, three, five, and four in the away matches during that stretch. Arsenal have not allowed goals lately, with the three conceded against United the only time they've conceded more than once in a match since a 1-3 loss at City nearly two months ago. And while they've been low-scoring lately, we've still seen 5-0 v Huddersfield and 6-0 v BATE Borisov in the last month.

With Liverpool's recent results over Arsenal, coupled with a narrow lead in the table, it's all Liverpool's to lose. A win's not expected, but it's kind of expected. A loss would be a big setback, especially given how well Liverpool played on Sunday, and with games to come annoyingly fast and thick over the next two weeks.

This fixture's been wild recently. Liverpool, for better and worse, have been wild recently. Arsenal, even with their good record, have not been all that wild, but hey, they're still Arsenal.

So expect wild. Expect heart palpitations. And hope for the best.

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