English Premier League Festive Fixtures
The Premier League continues to churn out top flight fixtures over their annual Festive Fixtures period, after a pulsating Boxing Day that left rippling effects in the leagues' overall title chase, this weekends matches carry a tremendous amount of significance as the opening whistle arrives.
Liverpool placed their foot on the gas in an attempt to separate themselves atop the EPL table, thrashing an over-matched Newcastle side by a 4-0 score-line, the Reds seem determined too lift their first league title since 1990 in May. Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United all had wonderful performances of their own, collecting valuable points while climbing the league ladder, each seem ready to make a second half push for a top four finish in the standings.
Manchester City and Arsenal were the big losers after match day 19. The Citizens have truly been on a downward spiral over the past two weeks, after allowing Crystal Place to take all three points while at the Etihad, the defending champs followed that up with a uninspired 2-1 defeat to the Foxes of Leicester City. Pep Guardiola still seems confident his team can make up the ground over the last half of the campaign, but now 3rd and a full 6 points behind Liverpool, City surely cannot afford anymore slip-up's in their quest too defend their crown.
Liverpool vs Arsenal
Anfield, Liverpool, England
12-29-2018 - 12:30 pm ET - NBC
The featured match on Saturday's card shifts to Anfield, where the league leaders welcome fellow "Big Six" mates Arsenal too their hallowed grounds. This match up has produced a plethora of goals over the past 5 seasons, based on each teams style of play and attacking talent we should expect another uptempo performance from these old rivals.
Liverpool continue to set records as the second half of the season approaches. The Reds enter round 20 failing to have lost a domestic fixture during this magical run, with an overall record of 16-3-0, the hosts hold a commanding 6 point lead over their closest contender in the Premier League field.
Jurgen Klopp has been a perfect fit for this classic side, incorporating his German tactics within the English style of play, Klopp has produced one of the more entertaining teams to witness on the European front. The former Dortmund man has strategically brought in players to fit his overall game plan, still with the ability to create goals in the blink of an eye, he has also built a formidable back-line who have the most clean-sheets in the league too date.
Reds Main Threat
Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah continues to grab all the head lines, after bagging another goal against Newcastle on Boxing Day, the second year man has now produced 12 domestic goals on the new campaign, including 6 in his last outings 5 to give him great value to keep up his torrid scoring streak. Salah is special in the open field, thriving on the end of through balls and counter attacking situations, his finishing skills will be on full display as he attempts to pick this unpredictable Arsenal defense apart.
Liverpool's Supporting Cast
The hosts are loaded with talent throughout their normal rotation, with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane playing in complete sequence with their fellow front-line member. The combo are a perfect fit within the Reds fanatic pace of play, with Mane offering more blistering pace down the opposite wing, while Firmino acts as the traditional center forward who looks to clean up loose balls in and around the box, with 11 combined goals during EPL play, they are always a threat to find the back of the net for their beloved side.
Klopp's Injury Concerns
The list of non-participants continue to grow on Merseyside, with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Joseph Gomez and Joel Matip all still officially ruled out of contention against the Gunners, while James Milner and Alberto Moreno are both major doubts after failing to see the pitch during Wednesday's fixture.
The home side were given an added spark when Naby Keita and Trent Alexander-Arnold both recovered from their short stints on the sideline, placing each in contention to break the starting eleven, and giving Liverpool more stability throughout their 18 man squad.
Liverpool have feasted on Arsenal during Klopp's reign, producing 10 goals over the last 3 matches while at Anfield, and compiling a record of 2-1-0 over that successful run of play. The German was tested in his first match-up with Arsenal's new head-man last month, although Liverpool were deprived of a first half goal at the Emirates, the Reds head man has still avoided defeat against the Londoners during his time in charge.
Arsenal stagger into Anfield needing a positive result in the worst way. The Gunners have lost their way over the past 4 fixtures, after failing to lose over a 22 match streak, the Londoner's have since went 1-1-2, including a 1-1 draw against Brighton on Boxing Day, snapping their run of scoring 2 or more goals in all their away matches this season.
Unai Emery still seems positive regarding the future of the club, after taking over for managerial legend Arsene Wenger in the off-season, the Spaniard has his team sitting 5th in the table with 38 points, and cruising in Europa League competitions, where he has lifted that title 3 times over his career on the sidelines, including defeating this same Liverpool side in 2016 during his spell with Spanish giants Sevilla.
Gunner's Attacking Choices
Emery has spent the first half of the campaign configuring his regular formation, Saturday he seems to be in favor of a 4-3-1-2 alignment, led by the talented duo of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who have produced 19 goals and 8 assists during league play, providing Arsenal with two of the more feared danger-men in the world. Aubameyang has truly emerged as the visitors top choice to find the back of the net on a consistent basis, after struggling to find his rhythm within England's physical brand of football, the Gabanese striker has regained the same type of form that made him one of the top tally's men in the sport.
Arsenal's Determined Midfield
The Gunner's must lean on the work-man like approach their skilled midfield produces. Aaron Ramsey is rumored to step into the number ten role for this particular contest, the Welsh-man has found cracking the starting eleven a challenge during Emery's tenure, but Ramsey always seems to provide a moment of magic when least expected, and this spot seems to fit him very well. Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka must use their multi-faceted tools to help lead their side too victory, each are well equipped to provide support on the defensive side of the pitch, while also contributing when moving forward in attack with their precise passing and long range shooting abilities to help force Liverpool into vulnerable positions.
Emery's Mash Unit
The boss makes the trip to northern England with a lengthy list on injuries throughout his own team. Arsenal have up to 10 members who are potentially unavailable for duty in this top of the table fixture, with Rob Holding, Danny Welbeck, Konstantinos Mavropano, Héctor Bellerín, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Emile Smith-Rowe all officially ruled out, while Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal and Shkodran Mustafi will all be game time decisions, which places Arsenal in a true dilemma with their most experienced center-backs at less than 100% against Liverpool's non-stop pressure.
Arsenal cannot afford to slip much more in their pursuit of the Champions League qualifications. The Gunners currently sit 2 points off the top four spots in the EPL standings, after defeating Tottenham on match day 15 which catapulted them into the 4th position, the north Londoner's have since relinquished their grasp in the standings, dropping 5 points and making life difficult on their European aspirations.
Liverpool vs Arsenal - Match Prediction
These two clubs have provided the viewing audiences with pure fireworks over the years, with each combining for 29 goals over their last seven encounters. Last seasons Festive Fixtures affair produced 6 alone, making for another blockbuster event as these two storied clubs meet for the 226th time in all competitions.
Liverpool start the day as 2/1 favorites, with so much momentum in their corner it is hard to see them slip in this specific match-up. The Reds are simply humbling their competition on the campaign, especially at Anfield where they seem to turn their intensity up another level. The hosts have hit the back of the net each time out on their own pitch this season, posting an average of 2.4 goals per match, while producing 18.6 shots on goal to keep their gaudy stats in tact.
Liverpool - To Win and Over 1.5 Goals -125 / 1.8
Klopp's men were quite dominant at times while at the Emirates during last months encounter, even though they lost the possession battle they were still threatening when given the opportunities in front of goal. I expect a more passionate result once this match kicks off, Liverpool's pressing style of play is certain to give Arsenal fits, as they look to set their high octane offense into motion and create another large amount of shots on goal.
Arsenal understand they will be in for a battle over the full 90 plus minutes of this top five affair. The Gunners have been true road warriors under Emery's vision, knocking in a staggering 2.3 goals per match during their first 9 matches away from the Emirates, while accumulating a record of 5-2-2 ,to give them plenty of self-belief they can grab a positive result during their travels.
The Gunner's play a more methodical style of play, using patience to their advantage as they attempt to break down defenses with skillful passing and clinical finishing techniques while in front of goal, they must stick with their winning formula and not panic if they do find themselves behind at any point in the match.
I have evaluated this match from several different angles, but I still see the same type of projections as the final whistle blows. Liverpool are certain to come out on the front foot looking to establish their dominance while in front of their loyal supporters, wanting to test Arsenal's struggles on the back-end to defend pin-point through balls and quick striking counter attacking football, while using their talented danger-men to create as many chances on goal as possible. Arsenal will be tested for much of this match, scrambling to get organized and keep Liverpool in front of their defenders, while fighting to keep possession without making any costly mistakes that would allow the Reds to run wild in the open field.
I anticipate Liverpool making another first half break through, despite the Gunner's valiant efforts to keep them off the first 45 minutes score-line. The second half of this match should really see a ton of action with each team finding the back of the net, with Liverpool still having too much in the tank with a 3-1 type of final result.
Liverpool vs Arsenal - Betting Tips
Over 3 - Total Full Time Goals -120 / 1.83
Liverpool -0.5 -105 / 1.95 - 1st Half Spread
Liverpool - Team Total Over 2 -125 / 1.8 - Goals
Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals -120 / 1.83
Liverpool - To Score in Both Halves - YES -120 / 1.83
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