Match Preview: Arsenal vs. Liverpool

Date: Sunday 14th August 2016
Location: Emirates Stadium, London
Competition: Barclays Premier League
Kick-Off: 16:00 BST

alexis training

Arsenal will be without numerous first-team players as they kick off their 2016/17 Premier League campaign with a tough home game against Liverpool on Sunday.

The Gunners look especially light in defence after Gabriel suffered an unfortunate ankle injury in last weekend’s pre-season clash with Manchester City in Gothenburg, meaning the Brazilian defender joined fellow centre-back Per Mertesacker on the long-term injury list.

Laurent Koscielny will not be available for the game as he only returned to training this week after an extended holiday following his excursions for France at this summer’s European Championships, meaning Calum Chambers and new signing Rob Holding look set to start in a youthful partnership at the heart of the Arsenal defence.

Arsenal have been linked with German defender Shkrodan Mustafi in recent days but with reports suggesting no deal has been agreed with his current club Valencia, Arsene Wenger will be forced to look towards internally for solutions to this latest injury crisis. There will also be a decision to be made with regards to who starts up front for the game, with Danny Welbeck out until 2017 and Olivier Giroud, like Koscielny, not ready to feature.

Wenger will likely call upon Theo Walcott, Chuba Akpom or Alexis Sanchez to play in the striker position, with the former pair scoring six goals between them during pre-season whilst the Chilean only returned to the Arsenal first-team in last week’s game against Manchester City. Considering the number of players injured and unavailable, however, it would not be a surprise to see Alexis fast-tracked back into the team for this game.

Elsewhere though Arsenal look strong, with the likes of Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin fit and ready to contend for a starting spot with new signing Granit Xhaka in the midfield. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell and Alex Iwobi all enjoyed good pre-seasons and they will all be vying for positions on the wings. Santi Cazorla is also available once more after missing the second half of last season with a bad injury.

The Gunners will be welcoming an exciting-looking Liverpool side who have just come through their first pre-season with manager Jurgen Klopp. It was a mixed summer for the Reds, exemplified with a superb 4-0 victory over Barcelona at Wembley being immediated followed by a 4-0 loss to Klopp’s former side Mainz.

Liverpool don’t have as many injury and fitness concerns as their opponents but England pair James Milner and Daniel Sturridge could both miss out with short-term knocks. New signings Loris Karius and Joel Matip will both have to wait for their debuts due to injury but Sadio Mane, signed for over £30m from Southampton this summer, looks set to start at the heart of the Liverpool attack.

Both games between these two teams last season ended in draws, with a lively 0-0 at the Emirates last August being followed by an incredible 3-3 draw at Anfield in the return fixture. Both sides will be looking for a positive start as they face a competitive fight for positions in the top four of the division as well as, perhaps, respective tilts at the title.

Arsenal will follow-up this game on the opening day with an away trip to champions Leicester in their second game whilst Liverpool head to Turf Moor to face new boys Burnley.

Unavailable: Gabriel, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Welbeck, Wilshere (injury), Giroud, Koscielny, Ozil (lack of fitness)

Predicted Line-Up: Cech; Bellerin, Chambers, Gabriel, Monreal; Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Iwobi; Alexis

Callum Perritt

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