Liverpool host Arsenal in the Premier League this midweek knowing that they need to begin picking up points again soon if they are to finish in the top four (8pm Wednesday, BT Sport 1).
The stakes are high for the Gunners, too, with Arsene Wenger’s men determined not to relinquish their current hold on top spot in the Premier League table.
Liverpool have played twice in the cup competitions – beating Stoke City 1-0 in the first leg of the pair’s Capital One Cup semi-final and drawing 2-2 with Exeter City in the third round of the FA Cup – since their last outing in the top flight, a disappointing 2-0 defeat to West Ham United at Upton Park.
Jurgen Klopp (pictured) has made no secret of the fact he wants to win silverware in his debut season at the helm, but a Champions League spot likely remains his primary goal, with the Reds currently six points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. It is a margin small enough to be overturned, but Klopp will know that Liverpool cannot afford too many more slip-ups between now and the end of the campaign in May.
The injury crisis at Anfield has not done the German any favours. The side he selected at Exeter was full of youngsters and fringe players; while many Premier League managers rotated heavily at the weekend, Klopp’s changes were brought about largely because of necessity rather than choice. Philippe Coutinho, Jordon Ibe, Dejan Lovren, Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel, Jordan Rossiter, Daniel Sturridge, Mamadou Sakho, Divock Origi, Danny Ings, Joe Gomez and captain Jordan Henderson remain sidelined and will miss Wednesday’s clash, although Jon Flanagan is edging closer to a return.
Arsenal have had their fair share of fitness concerns at times this term, but Arsene Wenger is starting to get some key players available again. Alexis Sanchez could be included in a matchday squad for the first time in the Premier League since the 1-1 draw with Norwich City in late November, while Tomas Rosicky is hoping to recover from a knee problem before the end of the month.
Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla – Wenger’s first-choice partnership in the centre of midfield – remain big losses, but Arsenal have coped pretty well with recent absentees. The north Londoners, who are two points ahead of surprise package Leicester City at the summit of the league standings, have won five of their last six outings in the top flight, with a 4-0 defeat to Southampton on Boxing Day increasingly looking like a major aberration. A 3-1 triumph over Sunderland in the FA Cup continued their good form, with Wenger’s charges aiming to become the first side to win the competition for a third consecutive campaign since Blackburn Rovers achieved such a feat way back in the 1880s.
The club’s principal objective remains the Premier League title, though, with Wenger looking to get his hands on the trophy for the first time since 2004. The Gunners may be leading the way at present but there is still a long way to go, and keeping the points tally ticking over is vital. Victory at a place like Anfield can never be expected – despite their struggles at home in 2015/16, Liverpool are still a major club who must be taken seriously on their own patch – but avoiding defeat is essential if Arsenal want to convince the football world that they are capable of going all the way this term.
In normal circumstances, this preview would conclude that a draw would be the most likely outcome in this game. Liverpool’s crippling injury woes mean that Arsenal should have enough to secure all three points, though, as Wenger’s men look to keep ahead of the chasing pack at the top of the Premier League table.