When: 8:00pm local time on Monday, August 24, 2015
Where: Emirates Stadium, London
TV: Sky Sports (UK), NBC Sports (US), Fox Sports (Australia)
$1.75 at CrownBet.com
WDL record: 1-0-1
League position: 11th
Draw – $3.80 at William Hill
$5 at www.Sportsbet.com
WDL record: 2-0-0
League position: 3rd
Last five EPL meetings:
Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool
Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal
Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal
Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool
Arsenal 2-2 Liverpool
WOULD-BE title fancies Arsenal have a chance to announce themselves this Monday night when they host Liverpool in the marquee fixture of Premier League matchday three.
Having been stunned by West Ham United on the opening day, the Gunners regained some cred last weekend with a hard-fought 2-1 victory away at Crystal Palace.
Although Arsene Wenger’s men have hardly set the pace in the early stages of EPL 2015-16, online bookmaker CrownBet has installed them as solid $1.75 favourites against the visiting Reds.
One glance at their recent head-to-head ledger should tell you why.
Arsenal have lost only twice in their last 16 encounters with the giants of Merseyside in all competitions – a record that includes six wins in 14 league games.
Indeed, Liverpool ($5 outsiders at Sportsbet) haven’t won at the Emirates Stadium since August 2011, back when Kenny Dalglish was in charge of a team that featured the likes of Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Daniel Agger, Raul Meireles and Dirk Kuyt.
It’s a very different Reds outfit that has notched up two 1-0 wins from two fixtures so far in 2015-16, although it would be fair to say that neither of those performances were wholly convincing.
Only a late Philippe Coutinho stunner livened up an other wise dull display at Stoke City in round one, while the very same man should have been ruled offside in the lead up to Christian Benteke’s controversial winner over Bournemouth last Monday.
Nevertheless, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers can hardly complain about six points on the board as he looks to steer the five-time European Cup winners back into the top four.
Defensive discipline has been at the heart of the Reds’ performances thus far, and Adam Lallana has hinted that there will be more of the same at Emirates.
“The manager will set us up to get a result there,” the Liverpool midfielder told the media after the Bournemouth game.
“We’ve had two clean sheets in two games and we’ll be looking for a third on Monday night. We’re going there to try to get the win.”
Lallana added: “We’ll go to Arsenal with a gameplan to keep this run going.
“We’ve got a full week to prepare for Arsenal now. Hopefully we can go there and put on a good show.”
News reports claim Real Madrid have finally accepted the Gunners’ £48m bid for Karim Benzema, but it’s unlikely the French forward will be signed, sealed and settled-in by Monday. That means Olivier Giroud – fresh off a superb strike at Palace – will continue to lead the line.
Mesut Ozil, meanwhile, could be gone by the time the Liverpool game rolls around (if the rumour mill is to be believed, that is). The German midfielder played a starring role in the win at Selhurst Park, but there is strong speculation that he is all set for a move to Turkish giants Besiktas.
But perhaps the biggest question is whether Theo Walcott will get a run. The England forward didn’t even make it off the bench last week, with Wenger preferring the likes of Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He has a decent record against the Reds, so expect him to feature in some capacity.
Possible Arsenal XI: Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud.
With a perfect record and two clean sheets to their names, the Scousers probably won’t change a hell of a lot for their trip to London. Expect the back line of Nathaniel Clyne, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez to stay put.
There might be a little bit of tinkering in midfield, though. New recruit James Milner has started alongside Jordan Henderson in the first two matches, but the England man could well be shifted for German up-and-comer Emre Can should Rodgers opt for a more conservative approach.
Milner could move to a wing, displacing either Jordon Ibe or Adam Lallana, while big-money Brazilian signing Roberto Firmino is another option as he awaits his first start in a Liverpool shirt.
Possible XI: Mignolet; Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Gomez; Henderson, Can; Lallana, Coutinho, Milner; Benteke.
Arsenal to win – $1.75 at CrownBet
2-1 Arsenal correct score – $9 at www.Bet365.com
Arsenal + both teams to score – $3.28 at Sportsbet.com
Liverpool might have enjoyed the better start to the season, but it’s hard to bet against the Gunners on home soil.
For one, Arsenal’s cadre of quality playmakers like Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey should give a fairly young Reds defence far more problems than Stoke or Bournemouth did.
For another, the Liverpool midfield hasn’t quite clicked yet, and that may be exposed against Wenger’s always-classy passing game.
Whichever way it goes, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be goals.
These two teams haven’t played out a 0-0 result since 1999, while their last 24 meetings in all competitions have produced only four clean sheets in total.
Arsenal first goalscorer picks
Olivier Giroud – $5.50 at Sportsbet
There’s been some debate over Giroud’s long-term future at the Emirates, but he looks in fine fettle at the moment. The Frenchman’s classy scissor-kick finish against Palace sees him enter Monday’s clash as the outright favourite for the first goalscorer market.
Santi Cazorla – $10 at WilliamHill.com
He may not be the most prolific midfielder in the world, but Cazorla has that very welcome knack for producing the goods when it really matters. The Spaniard is also paying decent money ($3.75 at Sportsbet) to score anytime.
Liverpool first goal bets
Christian Benteke – $8 at Bet365
The £32.5 million man opened his Liverpool account by netting the winner last Monday, albeit in controversial fashion. He’s impressed hugely with his all-round game thus far, and he has to be the Reds’ best bet to hit the score sheet here.
Martin Skrtel – $41 at www.Bet365.com
If Liverpool are to outgun Arsenal on their own turf, one suspects strong aerial play will be a huge factor. Skrtel is always dangerous at set pieces, so he could prove a great value bet for those willing to take a chance on a rank outsider.
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