Liverpool host Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday evening in a mouthwatering Premier League title clash.
Just a single point separates these two and Aston Villa heading into the weekend, with all three clubs having the chance to go top of the table for Christmas.
Even without that pretence, Liverpool vs Arsenal is a fixture that almost always delivers goals, drama and talking points. The quality of the two sides at present only adds to the excitement around this titanic clash.
With that in mind, it’s time to get yourself geared up with predicted XIs, stats and key players for each team.
Liverpool vs Arsenal predicted XIs
Liverpool predicted XI
Jurgen Klopp is having to carefully manage his squad with Stefan Bajcetic, Thiago Alcantara, Joel Matip, Andy Robertson, Alexis Mac Allister, Diogo Jota and Ben Doak all sidelined at present. Even so, the German still has a wealth of talent to call upon.
Of course, Alisson will remain in goal, behind a back-four most likely made up of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ibrahima Konate, Virgil van Dijk and Kostas Tsimikas, though Klopp has the option of fielding Joe Gomez either at centre-back, or right-back if he wishes to push Alexander-Arnold forward.
The Reds struggled in midfield against Manchester United last weekend. Dominik Szoboszlai was particularly off form but redeemed himself with a goal against West Ham in the week, while Curtis Jones made a great case for a start with a brace in that match. Wataru Endo has been steady recently and will continue to anchor things in the middle.
Up top, Cody Gakpo was another to impress against West Ham and with Darwin Nunez struggling for goals recently, the Dutchman might well come in from the start; that seems even more likely given he was withdrawn in the 78th minute in the EFL Cup, while Nunez went the full 90. Gakpo will be flanked by Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz.
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Arsenal predicted XI
Mikel Arteta is also juggling a few different injury problems, with Mohamed Elneny and Jorginho now joining the treatment table. However, the Gunners are well-placed to field the same starting XI that beat Brighton 2-0 last weekend.
That means David Raya in goal, behind Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel and Oleksandr Zinchenko. Declan Rice will marshal the midfield, with Martin Odegaard providing creativity and Kai Havertz making runs into the box either side of him.
Up top, Bukayo Saka will be the main threat for the Gunners, while Gabriel Martinelli provides extra pace on the other flank, with the industrious Gabriel Jesus looking to disrupt Liverpool’s shape and flow.
Liverpool vs Arsenal: 5 key stats
- Trent Alexander-Arnold has six Premier League assists against Arsenal, more than he does against any other opponent, with five of those coming at Anfield. Indeed, only Steven Gerrard (7) has more assists against the Gunners in Premier League history.
- In his career in English football, Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus has only been involved in more goals in all competitions against Watford (12) than he has against Liverpool (9 – 6 goals, 3 assists). He’s either scored (1) or assisted (2) on each of his last three visits to Anfield, netting Arsenal’s second goal in their 2-2 draw last season.
- Gabriel Martinelli has scored more goals against Liverpool for Arsenal than he has any other opponent (4). He both scored and assisted in both of the Gunners’ Premier League games against the Reds last season.
- This will be the seventh time Arsenal and Liverpool have met in their final Premier League game before Christmas, the most played such fixture in the competition’s history. The Reds won the first two such games (3-1 in 1995-96, 4-0 in 2000-01), the Gunners the next one (2-1 in 2001-02), with the last three all ending level (1-1 in 2008-09, 2-2 in 2014-15 and 3-3 in 2017-18).
- This is Liverpool’s 100th home game against Arsenal in league competition, just the second side to visit the Reds as many times after Everton (105). Liverpool have only won more league games against Aston Villa (59) and Newcastle (58) than against the Gunners (55), though only Manchester United (25) have won more visits than Arsenal (24).
Liverpool vs Arsenal key players
To say Mohamed Salah is Liverpool’s man for the big occasion would be seriously understating it. The Egypt international has hit the net nine times in 15 career appearances against Arsenal — providing a further four assists — with only West Ham, Spurs, Man City (all 11 goals) and Manchester United (12 goals) feeling his wrath more. That’s a pretty impressive list of victims, especially considering he’s scored seven goals against the likes of Chelsea and Everton.
What’s more, Salah needs only two more goals to reach 150 league goals for the club. In doing so, he’ll join Ian Rush, Billy Liddell, Gordon Hodgson and Roger Hunt as just the fifth player in Liverpool history to do so.
Legendary Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler fell just 22 goals short of that feat. Speaking recently about Salah’s future amid reports linking the forward to Saudi Arabia, Fowler labelled the 31-year-old the ‘number one’ player in the world right now.
“I think eventually he will go there. They [Saudi clubs] have shown an incredible desire to get the players who they want into that league. Mo might be the only one who has sort of made them wait a little bit longer. Now it’s probably made them a little bit more hungrier to get him,” said Fowler.
“You can see why they want to get him; he’s probably the number one player in the world at the minute, the way he’s playing, the goals he’s scoring. He’s certainly the number one player from this region, no doubt.”
Bukayo Saka has faced Liverpool 10 times across his career so far, level with Manchester City as his most familiar opponent. However, his record against the Reds is pretty average given his lofty standards, managing just two goals, three assists and four wins. Saka has never won in normal time in any competition at Anfield so far, either.
That will all have to change if Arsenal are to stand a serious chance of leaving Merseyside with a result that keeps them atop the Premier League table this weekend.
Saka — who recently won the Arsenal Fans’ Footballer of the Year award — is the Gunners’ joint-highest Premier League goalscorer so far this season with five goals, while he also leads the way in terms of chances created (42), big chances created (9) and successful dribbles (25).
Arsenal are so good even Europe’s only perfect team are copying them
Arsenal have the distinction of being the only team to beat PSV Eindhoven in any competition so far this season.
The Dutch giants currently top the Eredivisie table with a perfect record after 16 games — the only remaining team in Europe’s top seven leagues with a perfect record — and are yet to begin their KNVB Cup campaign, while in the Champions League, they finished second to the Gunners with just one defeat from six games.
That defeat came at the Emirates in September Arteta’s side thumping PSV 4-0. That is credit enough to Arsenal’s Spanish tactician and his players, but even more so, it was a match that left a lasting impression on PSV boss Peter Bosz. The Dutchman is 19 years Arteta’s senior, but was still able to learn a lesson or two in tactics after that ill-fated trip to London.
“I learned a lot from Arsenal. Afterwards, I thought, ‘We played pretty well… but we lost 4-0?’ In the build-up, we did well and we had our position game, but as soon as we got to their box it was over. How is that possible?,” Bosz told The Athletic.
“Me and my coaches studied them. What is it that they do differently to us? The answer is that they are outstanding in the opposition box but also their own. They get a lot of players behind the ball as soon as possible. They do it with 10 or 11 but we only did it with six or seven and then the distances are bigger. It’s the transition.
“We showed the players and, in the games after, we started doing it with 10 or 11 like Arsenal, staying compact in attack and defence.”