Arsenal host Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday evening in a tantalising FA Cup third-round clash.
The showdown comes a few weeks removed from their 1-1 stalemate at Anfield in the Premier League, with both teams firmly in this season’s Premier League title race.
This showdown will also be their 18th in the world’s oldest national football competition and it’s the Gunners who lead the head-to-head record (eight wins to Liverpool’s five).
With that in mind, it’s time to look ahead with predicted XIs and players to watch for each team.
Arsenal vs Liverpool predicted XIs
Arsenal predicted XI
The expectation is that Aaron Ramsdale, who has featured once across Arsenal’s last nine matches in all competitions, starts here in place of David Raya. At the same time, Oleksandr Zinchenko — who struggled against Mohamed Salah when the sides last met — faces a late fitness test. “He’s progressing well,” head coach Mikel Arteta said in his pre-match press conference. The left-back missed last Sunday’s defeat at Fulham due to a calf problem. If he doesn’t make it, Jakub Kiwior will continue in the role with Kai Havertz being a wildcard choice. Given how the Gunners do not play again until January 20, barring a replay, Arteta should name a strong starting lineup even with Thomas Partey (thigh), Jurrien Timber (knee) and Fabio Vieira (groin) ruled out through injury while Mohamed Elneny (AFCON) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (Asian Cup) are on international duty.
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Liverpool predicted XI
A first Emirates Stadium visit for Dominik Szoboszlai will be delayed after the Hungarian midfielder picked up a hamstring issue in Liverpool’s recent win over Newcastle which manager Jurgen Klopp also sees missing their forthcoming Carabao Cup semi-final tie with Fulham at home on Wednesday night. “Dom is very positive, doesn’t have a lot of pain but we have to wait a little bit. So, no chance obviously for Sunday, not for Wednesday. No,” the German tactician said. “And then we will see, after that hopefully he might be back but we don’t know.”
The most notable absentees will be the Reds’ two international departees with Mohamed Salah and Wataru Endo now at the Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup respectively. Alexis Mac Allister is expected to fill Endo’s shoes while Harvey Elliott may be the one to replace Salah on the right wing. “We use the boys and their skills and that is the idea behind it. Do we want to play without Mo? No,” Klopp added. “But we will find a way but of course we play Arsenal and we can lose with Mo Salah but at the moment we have a chance to win the game, so we think about that.”
Arsenal vs Liverpool players to watch
As touched upon, Elliott could be the man chosen to deputise for Liverpool’s talisman and leading marksman this season. It’s a daunting task, but Klopp has shown great faith in the 20-year-old forward, who started on the right flank in their 5-1 win over West Ham in last month’s EFL Cup quarter-final. “What we really forget from time to time is he is still super young. He has [played] an incredible amount of games already and top games,” he said recently. “With his skillset he will be in the future super influential. He has to connect things, he has the ability to do that, he has the overview, he has the technique, the dynamic. He has it.”
Since arriving from Fulham in the summer of 2019 the Londoner has made no fewer than 91 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions. Predominantly used coming off the bench Elliott has featured 21 times on the Reds’ right wing subsequently registering two goals and creating two more. Two such outings came against the Gunners including a 22-minute cameo in that aforementioned 1-1 draw before Christmas Eve.
Against no team has Bukayo Saka faced more times but at the same time been ineffectual. In his 11 previous appearances, the Arsenal winger posted just two goals, and even though he’s returned nine goals and 12 assists in 26 outings this season ex-Gunners defender Martin Keown feels Arteta needs to counter what he sees as opposition teams working him out.
“When building attacks, Saka stays high and wide. This is a signature of Arteta’s tactics, much like how Manchester City used Riyad Mahrez when he was assistant to Pep Guardiola. But Arsenal need to show they can find other solutions by adding more variation to their attack for when opponents slap the shackles on their outstanding wide men, and Saka in particular,” he wrote in his Daily Mail column.
There’s a sense teams are utilising unnecessary roughness on the Arsenal forward with Arteta reiterating that Arsenal did not complain to PGMOL about fouls against him. “I think the referees know the tactics of opponents. They know some players are more targeted, and because of the way they play they might invite more tackles, but referees are well aware of that,” he said. “It’s been going on for two years that we’ve had wingers who provoke a lot of fouls, and it gets a lot of attention. It’s only normal.”