Arsenal v. Liverpool Preview – Philippe Coutinho’s return sets the stage

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  • Arsenal have lost just one of their last 12 clashes with Liverpool, winning four and drawing seven.
  • Luis Suarez has six goals and one assist in four Premier League games since returning from suspension.
  • November is Arsenal’s least productive month in Premier League history with the Gunners gaining only 1.55 points per game. October is their second most productive month (behind March).

Third place Liverpool heads to the Emirates Stadium to take on table-toppers Arsenal this Saturday (1:30 pm ET on NBC, watch live via NBC Sports Live Extra).

Liverpool enter the match having humbled a tricky West Bromwich Albion squad 4-1 behind a fantastic Luis Suarez hat-trick and an unappreciated Daniel Sturridge chip. That victory ensured the Reds taking ten out of a possible twelve points in their last four league matches following a pair of 3-1 victories Crystal Palace and Sunderland, along with a 2-2 draw at Newcastle.

Confidence will be high for Brendan Rodgers’ men not only because they haven’t lost a league match to Arsenal in their last three visits to the Emirates but because they’re also unbeaten in all four of their Premier League road matches this season.

While a bum knee leaves Jose Enrique a doubt to play, the Reds are set to receive a massive boost through the return of Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho (above right). The 21-year-old has been sidelined since the September 16th match with Swansea City where a waist-high challenge from Ashley Williams left him with a shoulder injury.

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Arsenal will be without defensive stalwart, Mathieu Flamini, for Saturday’s match against Liverpool.

Coutinho is a tricky little customer who loves to operate in between an opposition’s midfield and defensive lines, an area of the pitch where Arsenal will be without Mathieu Flamini due to a groin injury. With amaranthine stamina and the tenaciousness of a pit-bull, Flamini has been a revelation in manager Arsene Wenger’s midfield. His absence will be eased by the return of Mikel Arteta after serving a one game suspension for the red card he was shown in last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace.

That match marked the Gunners second straight league victory and took their league-best unbeaten streak to eight in a row. Outside the Premier League, however, Wenger’s squad has stumbled at home losing their last two matches to Chelsea (2-0 in the Capital One Cup) and Borussia Dortmund (2-1 in the Champions League).

Those results were difficult on the Gunners, who played well despite the unavailability of Flamini, as well as long-term absentees Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Yaya Sanogo, Abou Diaby and Lukas Podolski. With all six players out for Saturday’s contest, Arsenal will once again look to impress audiences by holding down their place atop the league with a heavily reduced squad.

With a victory, Wenger’s men will preserve at least a two point lead over second place Chelsea and open up a five point distance from Liverpool. If the result swings the other way, Liverpool will leap-frog the Gunners in the standings and, depending on the Chelsea result, could go top of the league.

What They’re Saying 

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: “We were happy with how we worked last weekend against West Brom, but it was forgotten about very quickly and our focus has been very much on this game and the quality of our training this week has been outstanding. We arrive in the game really confident and high in belief, coming off the back of an outstanding performance.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: “We have to respond well against Liverpool. We are in a strong position in the league and have a good opportunity at home, and we have to turn this round. Away from home we are very solid, but at home you know it is important and vital to win the big games.”

Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud: “I feel really confident, the boss made me feel good and that is why I feel good and try to improve every day. It is all about confidence I think.”


What a tasty fixture this is shaping up to be. Liverpool fans will be frothing at the mouth to see what Coutinho pull the strings behind Sturridge and Suarez while Arsenal supporters will be adamant that the current home loss streak come to an end and that their position atop the league be preserved. A share of the points feels like the likely result but if pressed to chose a winner, Arsenal’s health issues give Liverpool the slight edge.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.