Liverpool vs Arsenal Preview: An important test awaits Arteta’s men

Bukayo Saka destined for the top as Arsenal's rising star shines vs  Liverpool | London Evening Standard

After both booked a fourth-round EFL Cup showdown this week with contrasting midweek wins, Premier League champions Liverpool host Arsenal tonight to finish MD3. The Reds will consciously seek revenge after suffering back-to-back H2H losses vs. the Gunners for the first time since 2012, against an Arsenal side gradually improving under Mikel Arteta’s guidance.

Liverpool vs Arsenal: A big clash for both sides
Kick-off time: 8pm bst

Arsenal 2-1 West Ham LIVE! Latest score, goal updates, team news, TV and  Premier League match stream today | London Evening Standard

Nketiah’s late heroics spared Arsenal on MD2, where they probably would’ve dropped points last term

The pair have won their first two top-flight games in 2020-21, but for at least one of them, that will come to an end to finish September.

The Reds were impressive en route to a 2-0 away win over Chelsea last weekend, while Arteta’s side edged out a gritty 2-1 victory against West Ham.

Much has been said about how Arsenal are steadily developing under the Spaniard’s guidance, both becoming a more difficult team to beat and equally multiple attacking threats to boot.

They soaked up pressure and emerged 2-1 winners against a lacklustre Liverpool in mid-July, who had nothing to play for with the title already long wrapped up.

Last month, it was more of the same as they picked their moments and ultimately won on penalties in the Community Shield – something they hope is a sign of things to come.

Will either side emerge victorious here, or are we destined for a closely-contested draw?

Cruising cup wins and a need for continuity

A youthful-looking Arsenal side were 2-0 winners away to Leicester on Wednesday, for the first time since September 2015.

That’s a remarkable statistic and one that speaks volumes as they target a drastic improvement in their results away from home under Arteta going forward.

Liverpool cruised to a 7-2 win over Lincoln 24 hours later, with both Curtis Jones and Takumi Minamino scoring braces during an emphatic third-round cup victory.

These two sides are set to clash twice in three days this week, but the first is arguably more important from Arsenal’s perspective.

They’ve struggled for results against top opposition and given their progress since Unai Emery’s dismissal, what better way to test themselves than away to the defending champions?

Sadio Mane will be buzzing after his matchwinning brace at Chelsea last week, while Roberto Firmino has scored just one top-flight goal in his last 17 games. He loves playing the Gunners…

Sadio Mane explains how Kepa error was forced by Liverpool's work at  Melwood - Liverpool FC - This Is Anfield

Mane was Liverpool’s matchwinner in west London on MD2 but Firmino (right) loves playing Arsenal

Statistic: In 11 games against Arsenal, Firmino has eight goals and three assists – more goal contributions against them than any other team in his professional career to date.

The real tests begin

Perhaps this represents the best time for Arsenal’s trip to Anfield – an early season clash against a side with their vulnerabilities and can be punished.

With better composure when defending inside the area, Leeds would have earned a result on MD1. Instead, they gave away two penalties and were duly punished by Mohamed Salah.

The Gunners cannot afford to replicate that effort, nor start sluggishly on Merseyside here. If they do, it could be a long evening for Arteta’s side – improving they are, but not yet on top form.

Kieran Tierney (groin) could return after pulling out injured in the warm-up prior to their West Ham win.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Gabriel Magalhaes plays alongside Rob Holding or David Luiz as part of a three-man central defensive line for tonight’s visitors.

As for Liverpool, £30m summer signing Thiago Alcantara is expected to start in central midfield with Jordan Henderson (muscle) sidelined.

Meanwhile, Joe Gomez returned to full training over the weekend but it’s unclear whether he returns alongside Virgil van Dijk after Fabinho’s impressive showing there at Chelsea.

If he does, Fabinho is likely to slot back into his natural defensive-midfield role alongside a combination of Thiago and either Naby Keita or Georginio Wijnaldum.

Possible line-ups

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson, van Dijk, Fabinho, Alexander-Arnold; Keita, Alcantara, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Arsenal (4-3-3): Leno; Tierney, Gabriel, Holding; Saka, Ceballos, Xhaka, Bellerin; Aubameyang, Lacazette, Willian.

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