Preview by Numbers: Liverpool v. Arsenal

Anfield, Liverpool
Wednesday, January 13
3:00 p.m. EST, 20:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Michael Jones
    • Assistants: Gary Beswick and Andy Garratt
    • 4th Official: Robert Madley
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 0 - 0 Liverpool
  • This Match, Last Year: Liverpool 2 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 79 Arsenal wins, 83 Liverpool wins, 58 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W-L-W-W
  • Liverpool's League Form: L-D-L-W-W-L
Jurgen Klopp has stated that Liverpool have no chance of
beating Arsenal. There's more to what he said to, you know,
qualify that statement, but I'm going to leave finding that as
an exercise to the reader.
So, here we are. Arsenal have entered this round of fixtures clear at the top of the table, by two points over Leicester City, with 18 matches remaining in the season. The last time Arsenal entered a round of fixtures clear at the top of the table, they lost 5-1 at Anfield. Ominous, no?

This is the opening to a tricky set of fixtures for Arsenal; they've got Stoke at the Britannia, a fixture they almost never win, then Chelsea, who seem to remember how to play again, at the Emirates next weekend. During the course of the remaining 15 fixtures that will follow these, Arsenal will play on the road against third place Manchester City, fourth place Tottenham Hotspur, fifth place West Ham United, and sixth place Manchester United.

As you can see, every point is precious. It's fortuitous that Arsenal get to play at Anfield against a Liverpool squad that is dealing with fixture congestion and an injury crisis. Arsenal have performed well at Anfield in the recent past, February 2014 aside, and there may be no better time to play this fixture than now.

Let's see what mettle this title challenge has in it, shall we?

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Alexis (hamstring,) Cazorla (knee,) Coquelin (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Doubts: Ospina (groin)

Per Mertesacker dances with the ball during training and
There's good news! Just, not immediate good news. Alexis Sanchez has been "progressing well" in training, but is still short for tonight; he is still likely to return at the weekend, on Sunday at Stoke. The news on Sanchez has been considered part of a "double fitness boost," as Tomas Rosicky has returned to training as well; the Czech midfielder was injured on international duty back in June, fully placing him into the "like a new signing" category right now! He's also 35, so it remains to be seen what his role with the team this season will be, anyway.

Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini will both return after having last weekend off; the same goes for Per Mertesacker as well. David Ospina faces a fitness test on a groin injury that kept him from being involved in a game I would have otherwise expected him to start; here, of course, he would've been on the bench anyway.

It's as you were with the rest of the squad and its respective injuries. As the one who is in form right now, I'd start Joel Campbell over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but my gut instinct is often wrong in this kind of thing.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Campbell, Walcott, Ozil, Giroud.

Liverpool Squad News

Out: Origi (knee,) Lovren (hamstring,) Coutinho (hamstring,) Skrtel (hamstring,) Rossiter (hamstring,) Sturridge (hamstring,) Ings (knee,) Gomez (knee)
Doubts: Flanigan (match fitness,) Milner (calf,) Ibe (hamstring,) Sakho (knee,) Henderson (foot)

Liverpool have brought in Steven Caulker on loan to help
their injury crisis.
Liverpool have some good news, insomuch as they should have Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho available in the center of defense. James Milner (calf,) Jordan Ibe (hamstring,) and Jordan Henderson (foot) could all be in contention as well.

In bad news, Liverpool have eight players ruled out. Five of them have hamstring injuries: Dejan Lovren, Philippe Coutinho, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Sturridge, and Jordan Rossiter. Divock Origi had knee surgery that will rule him out for another month. Danny Ings and Joe Gomez are out for the rest of the season with knee injuries.

With Lovren and Skrtel out and with Sakho (knee) and Toure (cramp) being doubtful, Liverpool have signed Steven Caulker on short-term loan from Queens Park Rangers; Caulker was on loan at Southampton during the first half of the season and last played in their 6-1 loss to Liverpool in the League Cup over a month ago. Caulker is eligible to play tonight.

Predicted XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Toure, Sakho, Moreno, Allen, Lucas, Emre Can, Firmino, Lallana, Benteke.

Current Form

The last thing Liverpool needed was more fixtures, but they
seem pretty happy to have equalized against Exeter here.
Victory in the FA Cup over Sunderland last weekend has made it seven wins out of eight across all competitions for Arsenal, with the 4-0 reverse on Boxing Day looking more and more like the bizarre blip we all hoped it would be. As mentioned at the top, Arsenal enter the week clear at the top of the table, on 42 points, with 18 matches to play.

Liverpool's form has been sporadic, as they are still in four competitions. Liverpool themselves had won seven out of eight after a 6-1 trouncing of Southampton in the League Cup quarterfinal. Since then, the Reds have an overall record of three wins, three losses, and three draws. They are now 8th in the Premier League, 12 points behind Arsenal. They will face Augsburg in the Europa League's Round of 32 in February. They lead Stoke City 1-0 after the first leg of their League Cup semifinal. In the FA Cup, they'll host a replay against Exeter City on January 20; the winner will play at home against West Ham.

Match Facts

The first of many points Petr Cech has stolen for Arsenal.
In August at the Emirates, both sides played an enthralling 0-0 draw. Arsenal had 66% of the possession, but Liverpool managed eight shots on target to Arsenal's five; Petr Cech saved the point with two crucial saves. Going back to read the BBC's recap of the match, I've found that their pundit managed to blame Mesut Ozil, which was still the cool thing to do back then.

In this fixture last season, Arsenal snatched a draw from the jaws of victory in a match they really didn't deserve anything from anyway; Martin Skrtel equalized in the 96th minute. Incidentally, there was only so much added time because of an injury Skrtel had suffered earlier in the half.

Arsenal have only lost twice to Liverpool in their last 17 competitive fixtures across all competitions. 10 of their last 21 meetings have ended drawn. Since the infamous 2008 Champions League tie, Arsenal have a record of three wins, three draws, and just one loss (the 5-1 two years ago) at Anfield.

The Referee

Hey, remember Sagna?
The referee is Chester-based Mike Jones. Arsenal have seen Jones only once this season, for the 3-0 win at Watford in October. The only thing I can remember about his performance on that day is that Arsenal should have had a penalty when Mesut Ozil was hauled down in the box during the second half, but Alexis Sanchez put the loose ball into the net anyway and I can't recall if Jones appeared to be giving a penalty or not.

Overall, Arsenal have won five straight with Jones in the middle, dating back to a 1-0 loss at Stoke in March of 2014, which the Potters won on a dubious penalty.

Liverpool were also winners in their only game with Jones this season, although theirs was a League Cup tie, a 1-0 win over Bournemouth, which came a week and a half after that aforementioned Arsenal win over Watford. Liverpool drew both of their matches with Jones in the middle last season, including a League Cup tie against Middlesbrough which they went on to win 14-13 on penalties.

Around the League
  • Tuesday: Bournemouth 1 - 3 West Ham United
  • Tuesday: Aston Villa 1 - 0 Crystal Palace
  • Tuesday: Newcastle United 3 - 3 Manchester United
  • Wednesday: Chelsea v. West Bromwich Albion; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Wednesday: Manchester City v. Everton; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Wednesday: Southampton v. Watford; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Wednesday: Stoke City v. Norwich City; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Wednesday: Swansea City v. Sunderland; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Wednesday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Leicester City; White Hart Lane, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a large shield volcano. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for hot spewing lava.