The Premier League is back after the international break and there will be plenty of interesting fixtures to keep an eye on this weekend.
Top of our list is the crunch tie at the Emirates Stadium where in-form Arsenal host Liverpool on Saturday as they attempt to go above Manchester City for the first time this season.
The Gunners are the best side in the Premier League on current form with maximum points from the last six matches and have capitalized on the inconsistencies of the teams around them to climb up to third just a point behind City.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have had a remarkable 2015 so far but lost their last match at home to Manchester United. Before then, they went on a 13 game unbeaten streak in the league which put them back in contention for a UEFA Champions League place.
The loss to United, however, has derailed their progress and they must get a result at a ground they haven’t won at since 2011 to avoid falling too far behind in the top four race.
Arsene Wenger’s men have no new injury worries with the only absentee being Mikel Arteta who is out due to a long-term injury.
Olivier Giroud has been key for Arsenal since returning from sidelines and his performances have been pivotal to the Gunners’ amazing run so all eyes will be on the Frenchman as he leads the offense in conjunction with Alexis Sanchez and a rejuvenated Mesut Ozil.
Defensively, Nacho Monreal should retain his place at left-back while Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will be at center back. The latter would be looking to make amends for his mistake which led to a late equalizer for the Reds when both sides first clashed at Anfield this season.
Liverpool’s 3-4-2-1 formation has been the bedrock of their impressive form in 2015 but we may see the team lineup in a 4–2-1-2-1 shape after losing to Manchester United.
Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel serve the first of their three match suspensions after both players were found guilty for stamps on Ander Herrera and David de Gea respectively.
Dejan Lovren could return to the side to partner Emre Can in defense while Daniel Sturridge should be fit enough to start alongside Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho.
Arsenal to capitalize on Skrtel absence
With ever present Slovakian defender Skrtel out of this game, one of the unconvincing duo of Kolo Toure and Lovren will be selected to replace him at the heart of the defense which should see Arsenal forward Giroud licking his lips in excitement.
The Frenchman is often dominant in the air and will cause either player plenty of problems in the box . With classy finishing added to his game, the away defense may be in for a long long afternoon if he gets his ‘A’ game on.
Quick off the blocks
Both sides are not known to be defensively consistent and there are usually loopholes that can be taken advantage of. Liverpool are especially vulnerable in the first 15 minutes of matches this season with six goals conceded in that period to compared to Arsenal’s one.
The Gunners will need to get on the front foot as early as possible and a goal or two in the first quarter of an hour may well set them on their way to victory.
However, they have to be careful in the early stages of the second period where they often lose control of the game allowing opponents to claw their way back into contention.
Liverpool usually come into the second half stronger and their attacking quartet would readily punish the hosts if they slacken off after the break.
Stopping the supplies
Arsenal’s widemen have often been instrumental to their team’s attacking play in the final third and they are going to be in the spotlight once again.
Alexis Sanchez is one to watch on the right despite his drop in form in recent matches that is most likely caused by fatigue. Ozil is also expected back in the side after an illness kept him out against Newcastle so that’s one more threat to worry about from the visitors’ perspective.
Liverpool’s full-backs must stop the duo from playing so that Giroud is starved of supplies and thus rendered ineffective.