Arsenal vs Liverpool
After the wild and heart-stopping end to the first-leg, round two between these two institutions of football should serve up another classic.
Arsenal offered up one of their most resilient displays of the season, playing more than an hour with 10-men and not letting Liverpool score.
Arsenal are the first side to stop Liverpool scoring in a game at Anfield across all competitions this season.
And they did it with 10-men for 71 minutes. 💪 pic.twitter.com/fjZxm4GtDm
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 13, 2022
They followed that display up by postponing the North London Derby citing not having enough available players. No matter how riled up other teams have gotten at this, Mikel Arteta knows he has a real shot at making another cup final this time. Despite still having quite a few of their starters out, the fixture can be expected to go ahead and no doubt Arteta will be relying on some familiar faces to get through.
Onto the next.
All eyes on Liverpool.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 11, 2022
Bukayo Saka and Emile-Smith Rowe have been the shining lights for the Gunners, and Gabriel Martinelli has also been in good form in front of goal. They know that a major upset could be on the cards, and given the absences in Liverpool’s squad too.
It could have all been very different if Takumi Minamino converted the late chance that fell to him last time, but it is what it is now.
Jurgen Klopp, of course, complained at not having his AFCON absentees and it could be a familiar scenario if they lose in this match. The signs are good, however, after a comfortable 3-0 thrashing of Brentford at the weekend.
Roberto Firmino is firmly amongst the goals and even Minamino got on the scoresheet. Compared to their opponents, Liverpool have almost their full strength midfield in place which can supplement their attack well.
🗣 "Playing against 10 men all of a sudden, you could see we felt in kind of a rush, which made no sense."
Jurgen Klopp on the difficulties Liverpool had adapting to the changes Arsenal made after the sending off pic.twitter.com/FYn9Mghw4B
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) January 14, 2022
Though their league form has been patchy in recent times, the Reds should have enough in their tanks to get the job done this time around.
Granit Xhaka’s red card means Albert Lokonga is currently the only senior defensive midfielder in the side. It remains to be seen whether Arteta starts a youngster alongside him or plays one of the defenders.
PROBABLE LINE-UP: Leno; Tomiyasu, Gabriel, White, Tierney; Lokonga, Holding; Martinelli, Smith-Rowe, Saka; Lacazette
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s late injury against the Bees will see him miss the clash with James Milner set to return, and talented youngster Harvey Elliott still out with a long term injury.
PROBABLE LINE-UP: Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Milner, Fabinho, Jones; Jota, Firmino, Minamino
Bukayo Saka’s rise throughout this season has been massive, leading him to become one of the first names on the team sheet. The 20-year-old has finally settled into his favoured position on the right flank of the attack, having played all across the pitch early on.
Saka scored a cleverly taken goal against City as well, and his direct running caused Nathan Ake all sorts of problems. Arteta clearly trusts his young talent a lot, and with Pepe on international duty, Saka will definitely have to start and play a major part.
Andy Robertson against him will not be an easy task, however, given the slowness of Liverpool’s midfield against Chelsea, Saka will have chances of running with the ball at speed. Alongside his top-notch finishing, Saka also has great delivery sense which can be crucial.
In the absence of two of his strike partners, it is up to Diogo Jota to shoulder the goal scoring responsibilities in this match, and the month too most likely alongside Firmino. He has been an efficient finisher, and though he has had a lean run in recent times, this seems like the best time to get back to scoring ways.
His 12 goals in all competitions hold him in good stead to kick on and score again this time. The Gunners have shown a vulnerability against players with quick feet inside the box, which Jota is. Moreover, he is also an adept shooter from distance and has also helped in creating 24 chances so far. Jota will also look to play across the front line, drawing the defenders out of position and setting up shooting chances for his teammates.
The first leg proved that this match is closer to call than many would have predicted at the start. Arsenal’s absentees might just prove to be the difference, though, and FootTheBall predicts a 2-0 win for the Reds.