Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Arsenal

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  • Liverpool have only won once in their last 13 PL games against Arsenal
  • Arsenal have tallied 26 points away from home, the joint-best in the PL
  • This fixture has produced more hat tricks (5) than any other rivalry in PL history

On Saturday at Anfield Liverpool host Arsenal (watch live at 7:45am ET on USA and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) with the home side looking to close the gap on the league leaders.

Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side have only lost at home once this season and welcome the Gunners to a true fortress. But the away team are looking for a third-straight win at Anfield as Arsene Wenger’s men are in fine-form heading into this massive match.

Arsenal have 11 clean sheets this campaign and have let in just 21 goals, the second best record in the PL. But the central defensive pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have a tough task to keep Liverpool’s star duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, known as S.A.S., quiet on Saturday. The Gunners managed to do that in the corresponding fixture back in November, when Arsenal won 2-0 at the Emirates against a below-par Liverpool.

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All season Liverpool have failed to win a point against the three teams above them, and if they are serious about finishing in the top four, Rodgers’ side need to deliver against Arsenal on Saturday. The Reds also welcome Chelsea and Manchester City to Anfield in April, so they will have a big say in the title race even if Suarez and co. aren’t lifting the trophy in May.

In team news Liverpool are again missing defenders Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson, while Lucas Leiva, Mamadou Sakho and Jose Enrique are also ruled out.

Arsenal will assess Jack Wilshere before the game, while Mathieu Flamini serves the second game of his four-match ban and Mikel Arteta returns to fitness.

What they’re saying

Brendan Rodgers on the importance of Liverpool’s home support: “It makes a difference. It is genuinely like an extra man for us. That real passion of the supporters, it really has pushed us over the line a lot of times this season. Hopefully we’ve entertained the supporters, particularly at home, but in those so-called big games – the likes of Manchester United and Everton – those supporters have helped us. Hopefully that will be the case on Saturday, I’m sure it will because the support has been absolutely fantastic.”

Arsene Wenger on the threat of Luis Suarez: “The key is for us to dominate the game and leave them as few balls as possible. That will be one of our targets of course. At Liverpool the task might be a bit more difficult but the philosophy on our side has to be the same – to master the ball and to have the ball and to dominate the game. Liverpool have a strong offensive force with Sturridge, with Suarez, with Coutinho, with Sterling behind. All these players can score goals and make a difference. So what you want on our side is a strong defensive performance.”

Prediction

This is so hard to call. Having seen the power of the Anfield crowd in Liverpool’s dominant derby win over Everton last week, this could play a big factor. But Arsenal have been masters of grinding our results all season, especially on the road. And with Oxlade-Chamberlain returning to full-fitness and looking razor sharp, I think Arsenal could nick it. That said, I am going to sit on the fence and go for an entertaining draw. There will be a few goals in this one.

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

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The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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