Aug 24, 2015

    Confident Reds take on shaky Gunners


    EMBOLDENED by back-to-back victories, Liverpool visit longstanding rivals Arsenal today, looking to score points in the early season battle for position in football's English Premier League.

    Liverpool lost 1-4 on their last trip to the Emirates Stadium in April as their challenge for a Champions League place faded, with Brendan Rodgers' side taking just eight points from a possible 27 in the run-in.

    But having beaten Stoke City and Bournemouth, and with Arsenal having lost 0-2 at home to West Ham United on the opening weekend, Liverpool return to north London with confidence at least partially restored.

    "No matter when these games come in the season, they're always good for the psychological effect," Liverpool manager Rodgers said. "Of course, we've got tough games (to come) away from home, but we'll arrive into the game with confidence.

    "We know they're an outstanding group of players with some quality individual players, but there's a real focus in this group for this season, a real toughness mentally.

    "And we know we've got that ability to scrap and to fight to get a result, as well as play good football.

    "So if we can go there and perform like we think we can and have that game plan, we're confident that we can get a result."

    Liverpool have won only once in their last 18 games at the Emirates and their 5-1 demolition of Arsenal at Anfield in February last year was the only success in their last eight meetings with Arsene Wenger's side.

    Both teams tend to approach games looking to dominate the ball, but Rodgers said that as far as possession is concerned, he is more interested in quality than quantity.

    "If you look at Arsenal's last 10 games that they've lost at home, the teams that have won there, it's been about dangerous possession," he said.

    "The teams that have been there have averaged only around four shots on target and with 43 per cent possession.

    "So it tells you that you can go there and you don't need to dominate the ball, but you can dominate the space and that's obviously something that is important, especially in the big games away."

    While Arsenal claimed their first points of the season by winning 2-1 at Crystal Palace last weekend, the opening loss to West Ham called their credentials as title contenders into question.

    A second home defeat in succession would see yet more scorn poured on Arsenal's title chances and Wenger knows it is of paramount importance that his players put the West Ham result behind them.

    "If you want to have a successful season, you want to be strong at home," said the Frenchman. "Normally we are strong at home. This is an opportunity to show that.

    "We missed our first game and we had to look at ourselves, and we responded very well. Now we need to come back to our usual strength that we have at home.

    "This is a very important game where the result will, of course, be vital. It's not a result that will decide (anything), but in our heads we know it's very important."

    Arsenal have no new injury concerns, with midfielder Jack Wilshere (fractured fibula), forward Danny Welbeck and midfielder Tomas Rosicky (both with knee issues) still sidelined.

    Unlike against West Ham, Arsenal are expected to have Alexis Sanchez in the starting XI after he returned to the team at Palace.

    Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson faces a late fitness test after a foot injury forced him off early in the second half against Bournemouth, when Christian Benteke scored his first goal for the club.

    Should he not be passed fit, Emre Can, sent off in last season's 1-4 defeat, is in line to deputise.

    Midfielder Joe Allen is a doubt with a hamstring problem, while striker Daniel Sturridge (hip) and full-back Jon Flanagan (knee) are both out.