Preview: Arsenal vs. Liverpool – prediction, team news, lineups

With the Premier League title race on hold for a short while, Arsenal and Liverpool will instead battle it out for a place in round four of the FA Cup at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon.

The Gunners brought 2023 to a close with a deserved 2-1 loss away to Fulham, one day before the rampant Reds extended their lead at the top of the table with a 4-2 win over Newcastle United.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta pictured on December 31, 2023© Reuters

Following Arsenal’s humbling home loss at the hands of West Ham United on December 28, a bullish Mikel Arteta would defiantly claim that the Gunners were superior in both boxes, but the Spaniard was under no illusions that his side were second best at Craven Cottage three days later.

Bukayo Saka‘s improvised finish with just five minutes gone proved to be just a minor setback for Marco Silva‘s men, who came forward in droves and were rewarded with strikes from Raul Jimenez and Bobby Decordova-Reid, the latter lashing home from a corner as Arsenal’s set-piece frailties were exposed once more.

Owing to another toothless attacking performance, Arsenal squandered the chance to end a second successive calendar year at the top of the table and have been bumped down to an unsightly fourth position amid their festive plight, which has seen the Gunners claim just one win from their last six games.

While the hierarchy scope out potential additions to the squad in the notoriously challenging January transfer window – a new left-back is said to be priority number one due to a lack of affordable midfielders and strikers – Arteta’s on-field troops now begin their latest crusade in the FA Cup, a tournament they have won a record 14 times down the years.

However, since last lifting the trophy aloft in front of an empty Wembley in 2020, Arsenal have failed to advance beyond the fourth round – losing at that stage to eventual winners Manchester City in the 2022-23 campaign – and the defeat to West Ham marked the first time in 13 Emirates matches that Arteta’s off-colour charges failed to make the net bulge at home.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp reacts on January 1, 2024© Reuters

Likewise, Liverpool were briefly left to bemoan their own wastefulness in front of the home crowd on New Year’s Day, where thanks in no small part to a Martin Dubravka penalty save from Mohamed Salah, a beleaguered Newcastle United somehow entered the dressing rooms at half time with their clean sheet preserved.

Alexander Isak and Sven Botman even managed to breach Alisson Becker‘s net in front of the Kop, but Liverpool eventually dusted off their finest shooting boots to hit a quartet of goals themselves, as a Salah brace was complemented by Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo‘s close-range attempts.

Premier League history was written at Anfield on January 1, where Liverpool recorded an astronomical 7.27 expected goals (xG) – the highest of any English top-flight team on record – and their reward is a three-point advantage over Aston Villa at the top of the Premier League rankings.

Now returning to the road, where they have scored in 18 games on the bounce since April’s 0-0 stalemate at Chelsea, Liverpool are on a mission to add FA Cup number nine to the cabinet, although the defence of their 2021-22 crown ended with a premature fourth-round exit to Brighton & Hove Albion last term.

Furthermore, Liverpool have come up short in each of their last three FA Cup showdowns with Arsenal – who sunk the Reds 2-1 at the Emirates en route to the 2013-14 title – and December’s chaotic 1-1 Anfield draw stretched the Gunners’ unbeaten streak against the Reds to a respectable three games.

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