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.

source: Getty Images
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.”

Prediction

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.

Report: Toronto to send Giovinco to Tigres for Valencia, cash

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An Mexican site reports that Tigres UANL is ready to send Enner Valencia and cash to Toronto FC to land Sebastian Giovinco.

Normally that’s seem a bit wild for TFC to send their perennial MLS MVP candidate packing, but the club has been hesitant to meet Giovinco’s terms on a new contract.

[ MORE: PL Manager Power Rankings ]

And Valencia is nearly three years younger and a bit bigger than Giovinco.

Valencia scored in bunches for Tigres after arriving from West Ham, scoring nine goals with an assist in 16 Apertura matches including three multi-goal games. He then saw his numbers dip to two goals and three assists in 11 Clausura appearances.

Giovinco, meanwhile, has six goals and six assists in 15 matches between MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League.

It would be a significant risk for TFC, though the idea of pairing up Enner Valencia and Jozy Altidore is a physical nightmare for MLS defenses.

Whoops! Unai Emery puts up Arsenal message on web site

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Arsenal’s next manager is very close to being officially Unai Emery.

That is unless, the Gunners’ brass has its mind changed by his sloppy web savvy.

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

Emery — or his people, or hackers — mistakenly put up a graphic featuring the Spanish coach, the Arsenal logo, and the phrase “Proud to be a part of the Arsenal family” before taking it down in short order.

Emery is expected to take over for Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium this summer. Something tells us we’ll have an announcement on Wednesday or even later tonight…

State TV: Ghana president orders arrest of FIFA executive

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday ordered police to arrest football federation head Kwesi Nyantakyi, a member of the powerful FIFA Council, over allegations of fraud.

Akufo-Addo’s order was announced by the state-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

Abu Jinapor, deputy chief of staff at the president’s office, said the order for Nyantakyi to be arrested and investigated related to an undercover documentary that purports to show the football official asking businessmen for money in return for access to the president and other senior government officials.

“It was a clear case of defrauding by false pretense,” Jinapor said, adding that Akufo-Addo’s order came after he watched excerpts from the documentary, which has not yet been broadcast.

Nyantakyi is president of the Ghana Football Association, a vice president of the Confederation of African Football, and has been a member of the ruling FIFA Council since 2016. He was the FIFA official chosen to oversee the football competition at the 2012 London Olympics.

Ghanaian media reported that Nyantakyi was not in Ghana at the time of the president’s order but was returning home.

Nyantakyi has been accused of improper behavior before when a British media investigation just before the 2014 World Cup claimed he had been willing to allow the Ghana national team to play in games that could be fixed by others. He denied the allegation.

Premier League managerial power rankings

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There’s a new sheriff at West Ham United, and it’s no small-time boss.

Former Premier League champion manager Manuel Pellegrini is taking over the London side, which had us wondering how high he’d move up the acclaim ladder upon hiring (as of post time).

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

With the 20th spot still open — will it be Fulham or Aston Villa — the Arsenal and Everton jobs vacant for now, and both Neil Warnock and Nuno Espirito Santo yet to manage their clubs in the top flight, we rank the power status of the 15 other active Premier League bosses.

15. Javi Gracia, Watford — Manager don’t usually last long at Vicarage Road, and Gracia doesn’t have a record for sticking around clubs for too long himself.

14. Mark Hughes, Southampton — Saints stayed in the Premier League, and Hughes deserves credit for pushing the buttons on a talented squad.

13. Claude Puel, Leicester City — A disappointing finish to his season keeps Leicester outside the Europa League, and so he has a bit more to prove after an impressive reclamation job at the King Power Stadium.

12. David Wagner, Huddersfield Town — Keeping Town in the Premier League was impressive, but we’re not sure how much we learned about the long-term prognosis of Jurgen Klopp‘s best pal.

11. Chris Hughton, Brighton and Hove Albion — He’d led several clubs to Premier League promotion, and coaxed fine seasons out of what appeared to be a subpar defense at season’s open.

10. Eddie Howe, Bournemouth — One of the brightest young managerial minds, can he take the next step on the South Coast?

9. Roy Hodgson, Crystal Palace — What he did upon inheriting and then overseeing one of the worst starts in Premier League history was nothing short of brilliant. Clearly he hasn’t stopped learning unlike many other PL “retreads.”

8. Manuel Pellegrini, West Ham — What will a few years outside the Premier League, if anything, have done to the one-time Man City leader. Don’t forget: The season City won the PL season, he coaxed 20-plus goal campaigns in all competitions from Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo, and Yaya Toure.

7. Antonio Conte, Chelsea — Tactically and experience-wise, he’s so much higher on the list. Regardless of the mess at Chelsea, better was needed this season.

6. Sean Dyche, Burnley — Guiding tiny Burnley to the Europa League is as impressive a feat as any outside of what Guardiola did this year and Claudio Ranieri did at Leicester City.

— BONUS — 6b. Unai Emery, if hired at Arsenal —

5. Rafa Benitez, Newcastle United — Considering his resume, it shouldn’t be as surprising that he kept United up despite his owner refusing to green-light a real answer at center forward. Worked career years out of Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey.

4. Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool — The Champions League final says something, especially in a year he sold Philippe Coutinho, but his team still lacks the consistency of the three men in front of him.

3. Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur — Spurs have smartly spent and kept their stars around, but their financial outlay arguably should not have them consistently finishing ahead of Liverpool and Arsenal.

2. Jose Mourinho, Manchester United — Still a defensive marvel, still a genius, still somewhat hilarious… but we all know who No. 1 is…

  1. Pep Guardiola, Manchester City