If Liverpool mounts its first Premier League title challenge since 2008-09, its 5-1 victory over Arsenal will be seen as the season’s turning point – the day the team went from Champions League hopeful to legitimate threat. On Sunday, the Gunners get their chance at revenge when Brendan Rodgers’ team visits the Emirates in the FA Cup.
At stake is place in the competition’s quarterfinals as well as each team’s best chance at winning silverware this season. While both clubs are in the Premier League title race, Chelsea and Manchester City are favorites for that honor. Though City remain alive in the FA Cup, whomever wins on Sunday in North London will still be three wins away from a trophy. For Liverpool, it would be the club’s first honor since the 2011-12 League Cup. For Arsenal, silverware would end an eight-year trophy drought.
Shorter term, a win would also give Arsenal a measure of redemption. On Feb. 8, a Martin Skrtel brace within the first 10 minutes had Liverpool up two at Anfield. Goals by Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge doubled their lead by the 20th minute, with second half goals from Sterling and Mikel Arteta producing the teams’ final margin. While raising Liverpool’s profile within the title race, the four-goal margin also rekindled doubts of Arsenal’s title hopes.
Sunday’s match is in the FA Cup, not in league, but the effects could carry over. After back-to-back disappointments against Liverpool and Manchester United, Arsenal needs a result to muster some positive momentum ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Bayern Munich. And for Liverpool, another convincing performance will prove the result at Anfield was no fluke.
Other games – FA Cup Sunday
Everton vs. Swansea City – Player-coach Garry Monk leads his squad into Goodison Park to face his old manager – Everton’s Roberto Martínez. The Toffees will be favored to move into the final eight, but yet to lose under Monk, the Swans may be recapturing some of the spark that helped claim last year’s League Cup. While they’ll need to improve on the performance that got them a 1-1 draw at Stoke City, Swansea have already looked a more capable squad since the departure of Michael Laudrup.
Sheffield United vs. Nottingham Forest – Two lower division clubs compete for a surprise spot in the final eight, with League One’s United the lowest-ranked club still in the competition. On Sunday, they’ll welcome a Reds side that’s unbeaten in their last 18, their last loss coming at the end of November. Fifth in the League Championship, Billy Davies’ team has designs on Premier League return. For United, an FA Cup run is the silver lining to a season that has the Blades fighting for their third-tier survival.