Arsenal and Liverpool have been the Premier League pace setters so far this season.
The Gunners seem to have a balanced and happy squad, with a manager willing to spend cash and a realistic chance of ending a silverware drought which has existed since 2005.
As far as Liverpool are concerned, they will be loving their current situation as Brendan Rodgers shows good tactical awareness, able to name arguably the best pair of strikers in the Premier League at the moment.
It could be quite an open game due to the attacking way that both teams like to play their football. Here are five key battles to keep an eye on during the game.
Per Mertesacker v Daniel Sturridge
The big German is unlikely to match himself up against Luis Suarez, which means he’ll have to keep tabs on Daniel Sturridge.
It will be a fascinating battle to watch because Sturridge will try to exploit Mertesacker’s lack of pace, trying to pull him into a higher defensive position which will create a lot of space in behind that the German may not be able to cover.
It will be one of the biggest tests that Mertesacker has had so far this season.
Laurent Koscielny v Luis Suarez
Koscielny is the more likely of Arsenal’s centre backs to match up against Suarez because of his superior agility and pace.
Suarez will do what he does best, which is turn, twist, move and generally try to cause chaos for the defender he’s playing against. His skill in possession while in tight and congested areas is world class.
Sturridge and Suarez will look to rotate and occupy the defender least suited to keep them quiet so it’s important for Mertesacker and Koscielny to stay disciplined.
Mesut Ozil v Lucas
Ozil is the creative force in Arsenal’s midfield, which the majority of their attacking play flows through.
He will look to make the attack tick and Lucas will be the player most likely ordered to keep an eye on him. Ozil will drift across the Arsenal midfield, taking up positions and if Lucas man marks him, he has to try and keep the German confined to areas of the pitch where he’s less effective such as out wide.
Mikel Arteta v Steven Gerrard
This is a battle between two of the more experienced players on the field.
Arteta will play a holding role while Gerrard will sit centrally, pushing forward when he can.
They may not be in direct competition all the time on the pitch but it’s a battle between their leadership and organisational skills. There will be times during the game when both players have to keep their sides switched on and focused.
Olivier Giroud v Martin Skrtel
Skrtel plays in the heart of Liverpool’s back three and he’ll more than likely have the task of trying to keep Giroud quiet.
Giroud is a big striker, which means he’ll most likely look to push onto Skrtel, making life difficult for him physically, creating space in the gap between Liverpool’s midfield and defence.
Skrtel has been arguably Liverpool’s best central defender this season so Giroud will have to be on top of his game.
Which way do you see this game going?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald