Writer: Gavin Kelley-Day
Date:Thursday October 31 2013
Barclays Premier League
Two of the Premier League's top three clash on Saturday tea time when Brendan Rodgers takes his 3rd placed Liverpool side to London to face early pacesetters Arsenal.
Both have tasted defeat only once in their opening nine fixtures and are separated by just two points, a victory for either side will therefore represent a big result.
The visitors have had a full week to prepare for the contest after comfortably defeating West Bromwich Albion last weekend whereas Arsenal were in League Cup action on Tuesday night and suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to Chelsea.
That result shouldn't have too much baring on the outcome however as Gunners boss Arsene Wenger fielded a weakened side devoid of many of its top players.
Rodgers: "We were happy with how we worked last weekend against West Brom, but it was forgotten about very quickly and our focus has been very much on this game and the quality of our training this week has been outstanding.
"We arrive in the game really confident and high in belief, coming off the back of an outstanding performance."
Wenger is fortunate not to be missing two of his most experienced performers in the middle of the park. Mathieu Flamini is out with a groin injury sustained in last weekend's 2-0 win at Crystal Palace but Mikel Arteta returns after only being suspended for one game despite a straight red card in the same fixture. Flamini's absence will result in a start for either Jack Wilshere or Tomas Rosicky, alongside the impressive Aaron Ramsey. Out of favour youngster Emmanuel Frimpong also provides a more direct replacement for Flamini if required. Attacking duo Theo Walcott (abdominal) and Lukas Podolski (hamstring) are still missing so Santi Cazorla and new signing Mezut Ozil are likely to provide lone frontman Olivier Giroud with his main support especially as youngster Serge Gnabry is also a doubt after he picked up a knock against Palace. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby are long-term absentees with serious knee injuries.
Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Wilshere, Ramsey, Rosicky, Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud
A number of eyebrows were raised when Arsenal suddenly smashed their transfer record during the summer after a number of frugal seasons on the spending front. At £42.5million, Ozil is not only the most expensive Gunner of all time but also the most expensive German footballer in history. So far he has proved a great acquisition on the pitch with three goals and a number of assists in his nine appearances. The former Real Madrid man is one of the world's most gifted attacking midfielders and renowned for his impressive technique and creativity. Liverpool's rearguard and midfield will need to ensure he is not afforded any time or space on Saturday or it could be a long afternoon for the Merseysiders.
Liverpool welcome Philippe Coutinho back to action this weekend after six weeks out with a shoulder injury, although the creative midfielder may have to be content with a place amongst the substitutes for now. Coutinho's return means only back-up personnel Iago Aspas (thigh) and Sebastian Coates (knee) are definitely unavailable for selection. Spanish defender Jose Enrique is continuing to have an ongoing knee issue assessed on a game-by-game basis but could conceivably return to vie for the left wing-back slot with Aly Cissokho after sitting out the previous two games. With Jordan Henderson continuing to impress, as part of a more robust-looking midfield alongside Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard, Rodgers is widely expected to name the same side that dismantled West Brom. Despite his pleas for a return, vice-captain Daniel Agger is therefore likely to remain on the bench until one of the central defenders in possession of a starting birth slips up or suffers injury or suspension.
Mignolet, Toure, Skrtel, Sakho, Johnson, Cissokho, Lucas, Henderson, Gerrard, Suarez, Sturridge
The free transfer from Manchester City has been a revelation since arriving over the summer and has already proved he still has the quality to operate at the highest level. Toure was plucked from obscurity by Wenger back in 2002 and formed an integral part of Arsenal's undefeated league winning campaign in 2003-04. The 32-year-old recently revealed he still feels he has a point to prove after being sold to City for £16million in 2009 and Liverpool will need him at his commanding best to keep out the likes of Giroud and Ozil.
• Liverpool and Arsenal have met 194 times in their respective histories and the Reds hold the upper hand overall with 75 wins to 69 and 50 draws. Liverpool have scored a total of 185 goals compared to a tally of 112 for the Gunners.
• Despite Liverpool's advantage historically, Arsenal have lost just one of the last 12 meetings, winning four and drawing seven.
• Luis Suarez's hat-trick last week was Liverpool's 34th in the Premier League; more than any other club in the competition's history except Arsenal who have also registered that amount.
• Liverpool have hit the woodwork eight times this season and have done so 60 times since August 2011, both Premier League-highs.
• November is Arsenal`s least productive month in Premier League history with the Gunners gaining only 1.55 points per game.
Martin Atkinson is the official appointed to oversee this contest. The West Yorkshire based whistle blower has taken charge of nine games so far this season, showing 29 yellow cards and zero red. The 42-year-old has been a part of the Select Group of Referees who oversee Premier League fixtures since 2005 and made FIFA's list for European and international games a year later.
An intriguing match which on paper should be a great contest full of attacking football, neat passing and goals. Arsenal have been in scintillating form of late and will no doubt start the contest as favourites but Liverpool have the quality to beat anyone on their day. The Reds have had a relatively easy run of fixtures so far but this clash represents the beginning of a sustained period of difficult away games which will go a long way to determining just how lofty their ambitions really are. Following their trip to the Emirates, Liverpool also go to Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Chelsea before the year is out. Getting something from the Emirates will be a great way to start.
Vital Liverpool predicts 2-2
Liverpool - Premier League vs. Fulham at Anfield on Saturday 9th November 2013, kick off 3.00pm BST.
Arsenal - Champions League vs. Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion on Wednesday 6th November 2013, kick off 7.45pm BST.
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Date:Thursday October 31 2013
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|1. Man City||13||9||3||1||+17||30|
|6. Man Utd||12||5||4||3||+3||19|
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