Liverpool take on Arsenal in a heavyweight Premier League clash at Anfield on Saturday with plenty riding on the result for both sides in their final match of 2018.
The Reds have opened up a six point lead at the top of the league and will be looking to solidify their position ahead of the New Year, whilst the Gunners will be looking to make up ground on the top four after slipping two points off the pace on Boxing Day.
With both sides bursting with quality and going in search of a final win of the calendar year on Saturday, here is a selection of four key battles which could decide the huge encounter between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield.
4. Georginio Wijnaldum vs. Lucas Torreira
As is usually the case in any Premier League clash of such magnitude, the midfield battle is set to be of great significance at Anfield.
With both Jurgen Klopp and Unai Emery implementing high intensity philosophies on their respective sides, much of the action in the middle of the park could be decided by which side possesses the greater work rate and aggression.
Georginio Wijnaldum has maintained his place in Jurgen Klopp’s side through a series of hard working displays this term, whilst Lucas Torreira has brought levels of graft and energy to Arsenal’s midfield which had not been seen for some time. The two will go head to head in the battle for midfield control on Saturday.
3. Alisson Becker vs. Bernd Leno
Alisson has added the higher calibre of ‘keeper which Liverpool had lacked for many years in order to compete for the title, though the Brazilian’s all action style and greater involvement from between the posts has made the 26-year-old more susceptible to the occasional mistake.
Likewise, Bernd Leno was recruited at the Emirates to implement Unai Emery’s playing out from the back style, an approach which was less effectively deployed with the more old school Petr Cech in goal.
However, the German has also been guilty of costing his side goals through errors this term. Both Alisson and Leno must match discipline and awareness to their clear technical abilities on Saturday.
2. Dejan Lovren vs. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
With Joe Gomez still injured, Dejan Lovren is set to partner Virgil van Dijk at centre back for Liverpool once more on Saturday. Though van Dijk typically organises the Reds’ backline excellently, Lovren is prone to the kind of errors that can cost his side.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in fine form for Arsenal and is the Premier League’s leading scorer this term, and the Gabon forward will likely fancy his chances of using his frightening pace and expert movement to cause Lovren problems at the heart of Liverpool’s defence.
With Aubameyang typically drifting inside from the left hand side of Arsenal’s attack and Lovren set to line up as Liverpool’s right sided centre back, the Croatian will generally be the Gunners’ forward’s direct opponent, and the striker could look to exploit Lovren as a weakness.
1. Mohamed Salah vs. Laurent Koscielny
In the same way that Arsenal may look to take advantage of any weaknesses in Liverpool’s back line, Liverpool will certainly fancy their chances of getting at an Arsenal defence which has been ravaged by injuries of late.
Mohamed Salah will likely line up on the right hand side of Liverpool’s front line on Saturday, and with Laurent Koscielny set to occupy the left hand side of Arsenal’s central back three, the Egyptian could do a great deal of damage up against the injury-plagued Frenchman.
The Gunners’ captain has only recently returned from a seven month layoff, and having hardly been eased back into action as a result of Arsenal’s need for defensive cover, Salah’s wing wizardry could be a tough proposition for Koscielny as he seeks to get back up to full speed.