Europe Hopefuls Lock Horns

Image courtesy of sportsmole.co.uk
Theo Walcott is the Gunners leading scorer this season. Image courtesy of sportsmole.co.uk
Liverpool  will be looking to bounce back from a humiliating FA Cup 4th Round defeat at Oldham when they travel to the Emirates to face Arsenal  in the Premier League on Thursday morning (AEST). While the Gunners progressed to the 5th round courtesy of a 3-2  win over Brighton, they needed a late winner Theo Walcott to do so and will also be determined to put in an improved showing with three points on offer.

Arsenal are expected to make a number of changes to the side that scraped past Brighton in the FA Cup on the weekend, with leading goalscorer Theo Walcott and midfield maestro Santi Cazorla amongst the players set to return to the run on side. Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere could also return after coming off the bench on the weekend, while Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen could recover from leg injuries in time to play a part in the match.

Brendan Rogers is sure to wield the axe after criticising several of his younger players following Liverpool’s shock to defeat to League One strugglers Oldham. Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing will start after coming off the bench at Boundary Park, while as many as three other first team regulars could return from injury. Fullback Jose Enrique hasn’t featured in 2013 after tearing his hamstring against QPR on December 30, while Glen Johnson and Pepe Reina didn’t feature in the FA Cup on the weekend.

Despite being less than two thirds of the way through the season, this fixture could have a bearing on which sides finish the campaign in the European places. With Arsenal currently in sixth and Liverpool seventh, this match could effectively provide as six point swing in the race to finish in the top six.

The Gunners registered their first League win in four outings with a 5-1 demolition of West Ham last Wednesday, while the Reds 5-0  thrashing of Norwich at Anfield on January 19 was the clubs third win from its four most recent Premier League fixtures. Liverpool’s record against Arsenal is poor however, having won just one of the past 11 top flight matches between the sides following the Gunners 2-0  victory at Anfield in September.

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