With three straight wins in all competitions, Premier League leaders Arsenal begin a testing run of fixtures with a visit to Anfield where they will aim to take advantage of Liverpool’s current injury crisis.
Fixture congestion has certainly not aided the Reds’ cause, with manager Jurgen Klopp watching on powerless as three were struck down by hamstring problems in their Capital One Cup semi-final first leg at Stoke City, and while Lucas Leiva performed admirably when asked to fill in at centre-back there, the lack of available cover makes for a far from ideal situation ahead of this match and the clash with arch rivals Manchester United at the weekend.
Klopp then fielded a team made up mostly of youngsters in the FA Cup at Exeter City which just about avoided being the victims of a major upset, in order to give several of his key players a rest coming into this key period. It will be crucial here for the midfield to provide the best possible protection to what will be a makeshift back four, and prevent Arsenal from finding their fluency in the final third, while Philippe Coutinho will hope to find his passing range again as his side search for some kind of consistency.
Arsenal have not been at their best in recent matches, but have done enough to win, which is something that has not always been said about them in the past. It is evidence that the team is becoming ever more resilient, but they know they will have to perform better here than in their last Premier League outing at home to Newcastle United, where they were very fortunate to come away with all three points as they were indebted to goalkeeper Petr Cech as well as poor finishing from their opponents.
Another victory was recorded over Sunderland in the FA Cup on Saturday, but this will provide another indication of whether the Gunners can go the full distance and win the title this term. They certainly should fancy their chances with Liverpool so depleted, but cannot afford to make the same mistakes as in their last away encounter at Southampton, where they were made to suffer as a result of their defence finding themselves beaten for pace time and again.
There might be a Liverpool debut for new loan signing Steven Caulker, but they do have fellow defenders Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure back available. Jordan Henderson could also return.
The visitors remain without a number of players including Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez and Jack Wilshere.