Written by @Chadley_N for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Liverpool vs Arsenal | Sunday 21 December | Anfield | 18:00
Super Sunday sees Liverpool and Arsenal clash at Anfield with both sides looking to improve and move into the top four of the Premier League table. The Reds have only beaten Arsenal twice in the last fourteen meetings between the sides with Arsene Wenger’s team winning seven times. Both sides will be going all out for victory and there’s every chance we’ll get to see an entertaining matchup.
To Win (90mins)
Liverpool…where do we begin? If you hadn’t watched them last season, you wouldn’t believe they lost the Premier League title to Manchester City by a mere two points. I watched them last season and I still don’t believe it. They’ve forgotten how good they are and now Champions League qualification for next season is already looking a tall order. Brendan Rodgers saw his team go down 3-0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford last weekend, a result that now leaves them seven points behind fourth place on the table. It was the team's seventh defeat in sixteen league matches this season and that comes after they were eliminated from the Champions League at the hands of Basel last week. Their error-prone defence, arguably the factor that cost them the title last season, does not appear to have been significantly improved over the summer. Dejan Lovren has struggled, and now number one goalkeeper, Brad Jones, is an accident waiting to happen.
Liverpool will raise their game against the Gunners not just because it’s a massive match but simply because they can’t play any worse than they have been, surely? At Anfield they can be trusted but it all depends on them. Nobody likes to talk about Luis Suarez, but to lose 31 of the 101 goals scored last season is terrible. To add another 21 on top of that with Daniel Sturridge injured is purely brutal. In addition, these two setbacks have only served to feed into the psyche that this isn't Liverpool's season and it may be a not-so Super Sunday for the Reds if things don’t change quickly. Under-fire striker Mario Balotelli has struggled since moving to Liverpool during the summer but has never failed to make the headlines off the pitch. The Italian has so far failed to score in the league, with his two goals for the Reds coming in the Champions League and Capital One Cup. If he starts it could be his final chance to win over the Kop with reports suggesting that he could be on his way out when the market opens in January.
The Gunners might be in a much better position than their opponents but haven’t looked irresistible this season either. They’re out of the Premier League title race having managed just seven wins from their sixteen games. Emulating their FA Cup success of last season seems improbable at best and the season is already petering into a familiar battle for fourth place. Arsenal were humiliated at Anfield last season, suffering a 5-1 defeat against the Reds and Wenger’s men will surely be gunning for revenge. Arsenal produced their best performance of the season as they thrashed Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United 4-1 last weekend with Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla the two standouts, bagging a brace each. Still, don’t let this be mistaken for salvation.
They’re still sixth, thirteen points off of top spot, and they still had to play a full-back in the middle of defence. One player who has certainly given them a lift apart from the ever-impressive Alexis Sanchez has been Giroud. The Frenchman has missed a large part of the season through injury, but he has returned to action in great form. Against Newcastle, he was involved in build-up play but was not content to just watch from deep, instead attacking with conviction and composure. Cazorla has been a bit hit-and-miss this season but he was outstanding last weekend. He scored twice — the perfect gift on his thirtieth birthday and was at the heart of an Arsenal performance that was a real joy to watch. Wenger will be hoping that the Spaniard’s impressive showing will spur him on to produce the form that he displayed for the Gunners in his maiden season.
VERDICT: Arsenal 15/10
Christmas is regarded as the season of goodwill but there is precious little currently on supply for Rodgers, with the Liverpool boss entrenched in his first major crisis at Anfield. Confidence appears to have drained out of a squad that exceeded expectations last season and fans appear to be losing patience with the man on the sidelines. The Gunners looked classy against Newcastle last weekend and should add to Liverpool’s woes with another impressive display of football. There’s likely to be a winner here and, at 15/10, Arsenal are a gift.
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