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Arsenal vs. Liverpool match thread: clash at the top

The most important match of the season thus far.

Arsenal FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal host Liverpool at the Emirates in a virtual must-win for the Gunners’ title aspirations. According to Scott Willis’ model, Arsenal’s title odds drop to 2% with a loss, 6% with a draw, and rise to 11% with a win. Arsenal cut Liverpool’s lead in the table to 2 points with a win and fall 8 points behind with a loss. I’m not sure there is any other way to show it. If the Gunners want to win the Premier League this season, they’ve basically got to win today.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

As with the other two matches against Liverpool, how fast and chaotic will this game be? Jurgen Klopp’s side thrives when matches are played up-tempo, creating mistakes to translate into quick attacking opportunities. Mikel Arteta wants his side to control matches, to dominate the ball and not take unnecessary risks.

Both times the teams have met this season, the match has been played more at preferred Liverpool’s preferred pace than Arsenal’s. The Gunners were in both matches with chances to score and get a result, so it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if that happens again.

The Gunners would be better off with a bit more control, however. Critically, it would help them avoid those foolish mistakes at the back that gift opponent’s chances that have been a bit of a bugaboo for this bunch.

KEY MATCHUP

I’ll be focused on Bukayo Saka against the left side of the Liverpool defense. You need your stars to be stars and show up in big games. Arsenal have no brighter star than Saka. Liverpool were able to mostly hold him in check in the first two meetings, but the winger was not at his best and likely carrying some kind of knock.

Bukayo Saka looked back to his energetic, dangerous self against Nottingham Forest. The time off seems to have done a world of good for him. Arsenal will need him to be the attacking dynamo he’s capable of being.

TEAM NEWS

Both sides have been somewhat coy with injury news, seeking every slight advantage possible. Mikel Arteta revealed after the Forest match that Gabriel Jesus has been dealing with fluid on his knee. He trained all week with the team, but there were late, dubiously-sourced reports yesterday that he might be a doubt for today’s contest.

Thomas Partey experienced a setback in his return from injury and will miss more time. Fabio Vieira has starting participating in training sessions with the club but has yet to return to full training. Jurrien Timber will still be out for a while recovering from his torn ACL. Takehiro Tomiyasu’s Japan side have been knocked out of the Asia Cup, but today’s match likely comes too soon for him to play a part.

Liverpool have some injury concerns heading into today’s match as well. The biggest question mark is Darwin Nunez, who suffered a foot injury midweek against Chelsea. He returned to training on Friday, but Jurgen Klopp expressed concern in his press conference that the striker wouldn’t be at full fitness. Mo Salah picked up a hamstring injury on international duty and has supposedly been ruled out of today’s contest, although I won’t fully believe it until his name isn’t on the team sheet.

Dominik Szoboszlai reportedly did not travel with the squad and will miss out. There have been some whispers that Thiago Alcantara, who hasn’t played all season for Liverpool, is close to making his return. Today’s match likely comes too soon. Kostas Tsimikas is still out with the shoulder injury that he picked up getting tangled with Bukayo Saka on the ice rink that was Anfield last month. Stefan Bajcetic, Joel Matip, and Ben Doak are all out with long-term injuries.

Wataru Endo is in the same boat as Tomiyasu. Japan are out of the Asia Cup but it’s likely too soon for either to play a meaningful role. Youngster Conor Bradley, who was excellent in his debut midweek against Chelsea, may miss out after his father passed away following a long battle with illness.

NUTS AND BOLTS

Arsenal starting XI:

Liverpool Starting XI:

WHAT: Arsenal vs Liverpool
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
WHEN: Sunday, February 4th, 8:30 am PT | 11:30 am ET | 4:30 pm GMT
HOW TO WATCH: Streaming on Peacock

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