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How Liverpool will lineup vs Arsenal: Sakho in for Lovren?

Arsenal arrive at Anfield to take on Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool on Sunday afternoon in a game of real importance for the Reds as they look to turn their Premier League fortunes around. Ben Twelves takes a look at the all-important team selection options available to the Liverpool boss.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday September 2, 2012: Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers and Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool return to action at Anfield for the first time since exiting the Champions League against Basel when they host Arsenal on Sunday in what is shaping up to be an extremely important game for both teams.

Since the draw against the Swiss champions, Liverpool have produced two far more positive performances on the road – despite the mixed results – and the Reds will need to reproduce the plus points again as confidence slowly but surely returns to the squad after a long absence.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 17, 2014: Liverpool's Raheem Sterling scores the first goal against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While Rodgers’ side have become more recognisable in attack with clear cut chances being created again, defensively the Reds still leave a lot to be desired as they continue to afford too much space to opponents in danger areas – something that Liverpool must tighten up on at the weekend and going forwards if they’re to re-launch a top four challenge.

In an attempt to provide some continuity to his recovering team, Rodgers named a strong side for the Capital One Cup success over Bournemouth in midweek, and that feat could have consequential impact on potential rotation for Sunday’s fixture against Arsene Wenger’s side, who have won three of their last four Premier League games.

 

The Team

Mario Balotelli is unavailable for the match after being handed a one game suspension by the FA for making racist and anti-Semitic comments on Twitter and Glen Johnson is also missing through a groin injury which is set to keep him out for the duration of the Christmas period.

Dejan Lovren was substituted at half time against Bournemouth on Wednesday night with a groin injury, and he is set to be afforded maximum recovery time ahead of the clash to prove his fitness, with Mamadou Sakho ready to deputise.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 17, 2014: Liverpool's goalkeeper Brad Jones slips as he controls the ball against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rodgers has some interesting selection choices ahead of him for the clash – especially in midfield where rotation is needed – but the on-going fiasco that is the Liverpool goalkeeper situation is set to see Brad Jones keep his place in goal, despite his performances since replacing Simon Mignolet being even less convincing than the Belgian’s – who at least proved himself to be a decent shot stopper aside from the rest of his faults.

The Steven Gerrard/Lucas Leiva combination in the middle of the park must be broken up against a mobile Arsenal midfield, and with the Gunners universally known for being soft in the centre, it could be a chance to deploy an energetic and powerful presence – with Emre Can an option after his rare outing in midweek – and Alberto Moreno fit to come back into the side after being on the bench.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 17, 2014: Liverpool's Lazar Markovic scores the second goal against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Lazar Markovic impressed greatly on the south coast and he should keep his place as a result, as should Adam Lallana – who enjoyed his best game to date on Wednesday – alongside Philippe Coutinho to provide support in the final third to Raheem Sterling up front.

 

The Line Up

Rodgers has confirmed that has been “no change” on the goalkeeping situation meaning that Jones will start his third consecutive game, but with Lovren a doubt Sakho should come into the side after a solid if unspectacular showing in midweek.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 17, 2014: Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho in action against Bournemouth during the Football League Cup 5th Round match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s the ideal time for the Liverpool boss to play a mobile and fully functioning midfield to cause the away side issues, and that should see Markovic move to the right side of the four man midfield, with Jordan Henderson tucking in to take up a central position with Emre Can, creating space for Moreno to come in on the left side.

That dynamic quartet should once again have the three of Lallana, Coutinho and Sterling ahead of them leading the Liverpool attack, and this is how the Reds’ XI should look on Sunday – again in the 3-4-2-1 formation:

Arsenal 3-4-2-1

However, unless injuries dictate that changes need to happen – with question marks over Lovren only – it’s realistic to expect Rodgers to name the same team that improved again in midweek against the Championship league leaders, and therefore this is how I expect Liverpool to look come 4pm kick off on Sunday:

Arsenal 3-4-2-1 3

As Liverpool begin their journey on the road to recovery, it’s vital that Rodgers’ side continue to build on the small but positive steps taken in the last two fixtures, but now is the time to start translating the improved aspects of the displays into goals, results and points.

The Reds now sit seven points adrift of fourth palce and Sunday’s fixture really is significant if they want to rekindle their pursuit of a top four place this season.

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