London: League leaders Arsenal face the first major obstacle of their tough February assault course when they travel to Anfield on Saturday for the first of two meetings with Liverpool over successive weekends.
The chances of Arsene Wenger’s side ending their nine-year wait for a trophy will be clearer by the end of a gruelling month. With a home Premier League game against Manchester United, an FA Cup tie with Liverpool and a Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich to follow Saturday’s clash, a poor run could see them fall by the wayside in three competitions.
They lead the league by just two points from Manchester City, who travel to Norwich City, and Chelsea, who are at home to Newcastle United, and defeat at Anfield could see them slip to third. The Londoners, however, are a team in form, have not lost on their last six Premier League visits to Anfield and could be boosted as they seek a third successive win there by the return of Jack Wilshere after injury.
He could line up in midfield alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored both goals in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Wenger believes that his team’s chances of winning the match will depend heavily on how his defenders keep Liverpool’s in-form striker Luis Suarez in check. “If you want to win the game, what you must know for sure is that he is a player you have to keep quiet,” Wenger said.
Arsenal will be without the suspended Mathieu Flamini, injured Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott, but their confidence is sky high after six wins in their last seven league matches.
Defeat for Liverpool would leave them 11 points off the top and manager Brendan Rodgers feels an assault on the title is now out of the question. “I wouldn’t say we will be challenging for the title this season, but will we play a part in it? Of course we will and we want to finish as high as we can,” he said.
“We will be fighting right to the very end, but if I am asked for an honest answer I would say it’s too soon for us.”
Manchester City, who missed the chance to knock Arsenal off the summit on Monday, when they lost 0-1 at home to Chelsea, travel to Norwich, who they beat 7-0 in November. They will be eager to rebound immediately after losing their perfect home league record as well as their 20-game unbeaten streak. (Agencies)