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By Anhad Imaan

Jurgen Klopp and Arsene Wenger, two managers who have recently seen their sides endure heavy defeats against last year’s premier league wonders Leicester and German giants Bayern Munich respectively, have come under fire from fans for the inconsistency shown by their teams.

The two sides meet this weekend, on Saturday, 4th of March in what could prove to be a decisive fixture not just in terms of Liverpool and Arsenal’s involvement in Champions League next year, or for that matter in a title race that is more or less over (both teams trail Chelsea by 14 and 13 points respectively!) but also in the context of Arsene Wenger’s future at Arsenal .

Like many Februaries we have seen in yesteryears, Arsenal fans all over the word have been disappointed by a slump in their team’s performance. Having lost 3 out of their last 6 games in all competitions, fans have called for Wenger’s resignation. With 50 points from 25 games, Arsenal lie 13 points behind table leaders Chelsea in a familiar number fourth spot, while Liverpool, who have 49 from 26, are a point behind their weekend’s visitors on fifth.

To anyone who has seen these teams on their good days, it would come off as a surprise that neither of them are currently in competition with Chelsea for a top spot. Liverpool, with their attacking prowess in Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane, have typically broken the tightest defences from open play. The same can be said about Arsenal, who have in their midst one among the most lethal strikers in Alexis Sanchez, who is alongside Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku, the league’s current top scorer.

One could make the argument that the Gunners are the better side in possession. Having lost to Liverpool on the opening day of the fixture already, Arsenal are going to be determined to hit back hard, to ensure a Champions League spot for next year, and most importantly, gain some confidence going into the remaining fixtures of their competition. Midfield maestro Mesut Ozil’s role in this one could be crucial, for it is he who must play a key role in Arsenal’s performance going forward.

Games between these two sides have usually been very high scoring. The last one ended with a 4-3 scoreline with Liverpool taking full advantage of Laurent Koscielny’s absence from the Arsenal team.

Key Battles
Granit Xhaka v Emre Can:
Last summers signing Granit Xhaka, unpopular to some degree for his disciplinary record, will find a match in Emre Can in this one. Both midfielders are to some extent evenly matched, although with very different qualities. Xhaka is undoubtedly more gifted of the two, but Can’s versatility in midfield and defence would mean that the Swiss international would have a lot more ground to cover.

Sadio Mane v Kieran Gibbs:
Possibly the biggest threat to Arsenals defence will be Sadio Mane. A winger by trade, Mane’s ability to cut in and open defences remains unmatched in the premier league this season. The GBP 34 million summer acquisition will certainly cause constant headaches for Arsenal left back Kieran Gibbs, who will have to be on his toes throughout.

Alexis Sanchez v Joel Matip:
Sanchez is likely to trouble Liverpool central defender Joel Matip in ways that Mane would bother Gibbs. The tireless striker who combines well with all his teammates going forward, will be hoping that Matip has an off day, especially such that he increases his tally this season.

All an all, expect a speedy, end to end game, one driven by passion, both on and off the pitch!

Team News
Liverpool Possible XI:
Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner, Lallana, Can, Wijnaldum, Mane, Firmino, Coutinho

Arsenal Possible XI:
Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Xhaka, Chamberlain, Walcott, Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis

Match Time: 7:30 pm (GMT), 11:00 pm IST. (Note: Fans in India can watch Liverpool Vs Arsenal live on Starsports Select HD1/HD2)

Venue: Anfield Rd, Liverpool L4 0TH, UK

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