Liverpool are set to host Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday evening in what is expected to be the highlight of the weekend. The match will see the only two sides with a 100% record in the league face off in what will be an early battle for the top spot.
This fixture hasn’t been kind to the Gunners in recent past, Unai Emery’s men were thrashed 5-1 last time out with an early Ainsley Maitland-Niles goal giving them false hope at the start.
Things are expected to pan out differently as Arsenal have reshuffled their squad with the likes of Pepe, Dani Ceballos and David Luiz coming in over the summer and are all expected to play a part in today’s game.
With the quality of both teams coming into this match, the outcome at the sound of the final whistle will hinge on some key battles on the field. Let’s take a look at those key battles that could likely determine the outcome of the game.
Sadio Mane Vs Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Though not a right-back by trade, Maitland-Niles has been deputising for Hector Bellerin since he debuted for the first team. Bellerin is on the road to recovery from injury so Niles is expected to start as it has been in the first two matches of the season.
This time around he will come up against Sadio Mane who was joint top scorer last season and is arguably the deadliest of Liverpool’s three forwards. His trickery and drive are out of this world and AMN will have to be at the top of his game to stop the Senegalese.
Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang Vs Trent Alexander-Arnold
Just like Mane vs Maitland-Niles above, this will be a similar battle at the opposite end of the pitch. Aubameyang who was also one of the three golden boot winners last season has been Arsenal’s most potent striker since he came to the club 19months ago. The Gabonese already has two goals this season and will be expected to be on the scoresheet, but he will have to go through Alexander-Arnold to achieve that.
The youngster has been exceptional since breaking into the first team and has amassed a whole lot of games and experience for a man his age. He will be tasked with nullifying this threat who is Aubameyang and while also bombing down the flanks to support the attack with his precise crosses.
Dani Ceballos Vs Fabinho
On-loan from Real Madrid, Dani Ceballos has brought a much-needed dynamism into the Gunners midfield. The young Spaniard was man-of-the-match in their last match against Burnley supplying the assists for the two goals scored by the Gunners. Unai Emery will be hoping that Spain U-21 international will have room to dictate play and create chances for his forwards.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will be hoping he has the right antidote for this threat in the form of Fabinho. The Brazil midfielder was bought in the summer of 2018 and had a slow start to the season. But now he has grown to become a reliable enforcer at the centre of the park and he will be tasked with giving Ceballos a torrid time on the pitch.
Roberto Firmino Vs David Luiz
Arsenal’s last visit to Anfield wasn’t pleasant, with the Liverpool strikers running them ragged. Roberto Firmino, in particular, was a menace all through the match, going home with the match-ball for all his efforts. The Brazilian made life difficult for Laurent Koscienly and Sokratis last time out, this time around Bobby will have David Luiz to contend with.
David Luiz made his debut against Burnley after completing his £8million move from Chelsea. The Brazilian was bought as an upgrade in the centre of defence and he will have the chance to prove to Emery that he is just that when he faces his countryman today.
Alexander Lacazette Vs Virgil Van Dijk
The only centre-back who wasn’t dribbled throughout last season, Van Dijk has contributed immensely to the solidity of Liverpool’s defence since he moved to Anfield in January of 2018. The Dutch centre-back is a wall of a defender and few strikers have found it easy playing against him.
One who had is Alexander Lacazette. The Frenchman scored in the reverse fixture last season but will have his work cut out for him at Anfield. Lacazette is known for his physicality and doggedness as his goal against Burnley showed, so this will be an intense battle we should all look out for during 90minutes