In their last chance to present themselves as part of the title race, Liverpool host Arsenal with a chance to do more than just being a team that influences the championship outcome in the Premier League.
However, it is a tricky one for the Reds, who have won just once against Arsenal in their last 13 matches against the Gunners, including none of the last six at Anfield. The reds are in decent form even though they haven’t look their best since Brendan Rodgers has decided to play both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge together, which has hurt his midfield and especially its ability to defend.
This premise is likely to continue, which means Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson playing together in the middle of the park, as Gerrard takes the more defensive role, while Philippe Coutinho leaves the left wing and does the creative midfield thing in the middle. This means either Luis Suarez or Daniel Sturridge (usually switch during the match) have more of a wide left positioning, with Raheem Sterling as the right winger.
A big problem for Liverpool has been their defense, ravaged by injuries. The Martin Skrtel – Kolo Toure pairing isn’t optimal, with Toure making an awful mistake that cost Liverpool a win at West Brom. Aly Cissokho and Jon Flanagan aren’t the first choice at the full back positions as well, and will probably spend a lot of time helping out in the middle against Arsenal’s midfield five.
There is a chance Rodgers tries to counter Arsenal’s advantage in the middle of the park with Joe Allen instead of Sturridge, but he’s likely to remain with the same personnel, only in a more compact formation to help him through counter attacking.
Arsenal will continue with Oxlade-Chamberlain playing next to Mikel Arteta, giving them more speed in the middle of the park and also another layer who has no problem switching to the wing and feel comfortable there. Jack Wilshere isn’t completely fit for the match but might take part in it (or even start), but Wenger loves to deploy him in a number of positions, which means he might play instead of Tomas Rosicky in wider role which usually works out better for him.
Arsenal have the advantage in this match except for the striker position, and their main asset and tactic will be to try and stretch the Liverpool midfield as much as possible, exposing their rather weak defense into situations it will surely make mistakes in.
Prediction – Liverpool haven’t lost at home since September 21 to Southampton and teams usually play more cautiously at Anfield. Unless they try to attack to much, Liverpool should be well set to handle Arsenal, who have a more pragmatic approach to them this season, in a match that looks like a 2-2 draw from up here.