‘Twas the last match-day before Christmas, when all through Anfield, Not a creature was stirring, not even the scouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that Mo Salah soon would be there.
Liverpool’s last game before Christmas is away at the Emirates to an Arsenal side that has very much gone under the radar so far this season. Jurgen Klopp takes his Liverpool side down to North London, where they won 4-3 in the opening game of last season. Now, with a somewhat healthy and rejuvenated squad after the 4-0 thrashing of Bournemouth, the Reds will be hoping to come away from the Emirates with all three points once again. Match-day 19? Into these.
There isn’t much to report on in terms of injury news at Liverpool this week. The same issues are prevalent and and the available squad pretty much remains the same. However, there was a small scare midweek, with Mohamed Salah missing from a festive squad photo, but it has since been revealed that the King of Egypt was just simply allowed to rest from an evening training session, Liverpool have dodged a crippling blow with that one.
Adam Lallana also is starting to push for a return to the starting lineup, but it will probably be another bench place for the resurgent English midfielder. There could also be a return for Cameroonian centre-half, Joel Matip after he returned to training this week. Emre Can is also available for selection again, after serving a one match suspension last time out. Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Bodgan and Alberto Moreno remain out for the long-run. Liverpool are very much on top of their injury woes.
Olivier Giroud will miss out on the visit of Liverpool after being substituted in the League Cup quarter-final victory over West Ham on Tuesday. Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla are Arsenal’s two notable long-term absentees. Francis Coquelin is in contention despite limping off in mid-week also. Shkodran Mustafi could return from thigh injury.
Following Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s move away from Arsenal this summer, it only makes perfect sense for him to start and score a 93rd minute winner. In all seriousness, I think that all the things he’s done recently more than earn him his spot in the side.
Despite my calls for Loris Karius to start last weekend, Simon Mignolet sweet talked himself back into the stating berth and that will probably remain consistent here. However, Klopp might move away from the defensive line that got a clean sheet at the Vitality last Sunday, with the return of Joel Matip possible, he might walk straight back into the team. The question is for who? In my honest opinion, it would be difficult to take either Dejan Lovren or Ragnar Klavan out of the side. They both deserve some kind of love from the Liverpool fanbase, despite being torn apart constantly by the media.
It’ll be interesting to see if Emre Can returns to the starting lineup after his ban and his wanting of a move to Juventus or elsewhere. I think Liverpool fans are too kind to him. He isn’t the man and is more than replaceable. I’d bench him. Sadio Mane will probably return to the starting lineup after sitting out the visit to Dean Court on Sunday. I’ve seen a lot of criticism for the Senegalese forward recently, but he is only human.
Liverpool: Simon Mignolet, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan, Andy Robertson; Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Philippe Coutinho; Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah.
Arsenal: Petr Cech, Shokdran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal; Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka, Jack Wilshere, Sead Kolasinac; Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette.
Key Battle – Roberto Firmino vs Laurent Koscielny
When Roberto Firmino plays well, Liverpool play well. That is a fact. If he can go up against the French-International, Koscielny and do a half decent job, Liverpool will be in good stead to get a favourable result at the Emirates. With the way Firmino presses, as soon as his man gets the ball, he is straight on top of him pushing him to losing his touch.
That is to take nothing away from Koscielny, he is a very apt and able defender, but with Firmino in the opposing side, you can’t just be still and let the game pass you by, you have to be active and think on the spot, and whether Kosc can do that is yet to be truly seen. It’ll be interesting.
Three days to Christmas, I have nerves in my bones telling me that this is going to be one of the most stressful Liverpool games in a while. Somebody told me that I’d be out of my mind to see an overwhelming result in Liverpool’s favour but part of me does. This is the most conflicted I’ve felt going into a game in a while. To make up for it, I’ll say a draw, but a scoring one, probably 2-2 or even 4-4? Have a nice Christmas, Andriy Arshavin.