High-flying Reds visit Gunners


Arsenal’s Ukrainian defender Zinchenko is likely to have his hands full tomorrow when Liverpool visit. — AFP

LIVERPOOL is absolutely flying at the moment.

After the emphatic 4-1 win over Chelsea in midweek, the Reds are five points clear of second-placed Manchester City and Arsenal, although Pep Guardiola’s side has a game in hand.

The Reds are playing with frightening conviction and fire in their bellies, more so after Juergen Klopp’s bombshell of an announcement about leaving the club at the end of the season.

They travel to Arsenal tomorrow, whom they beat 2-0 in the FA Cup third round about a month ago.

Liverpool have the capabilities to repeat the feat at the Emirates, even without their talisman Mohamed Salah, who is currently sidelined with an injury he suffered at the Africa Cup of Nations.

In the Egyptian’s absence, Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota have all stepped up and found the back of the net.Jota has been on a brilliant run of form, scoring four goals and making two assists. Nunez has three goals and three assists, while Gakpo has a goal and an assist. Diaz, meanwhile, has three goals and one assist.

There were also goals coming from other positions, including a first for Liverpool’s youth academy product Conor Bradley, who was man of the match against Chelsea.

The Northern Irishman has proven himself to be more than just an understudy to Trent Alexander-Arnold and could definitely challenge for the right back position.

It would not even be a surprise if Bradley could be retained in the starting line-up against Arsenal.

With Andrew Robertson slowly getting minutes to be match fit again following his shoulder injury, Joe Gomez should continue to play at left back.

Gomez’s recent form has not gone unnoticed and has been solid defensively.

He is also joining in on the attack more often than before in search of his first-ever goal for the club since joining in 2015.

The recent return from injuries of some of the players could not have come at a better time.

With Wataru Endo still playing in the AFC Asian Cup, it is fortunate that Alexis Mac Allister is available following a brief spell on the sideline and playing well in the Number Six role.

The Argentinian’s vision in making incisive passes and stopping attacks from building up have proven crucial to help the Reds remain at the top of the table.

Dominik Szoboszlai made an assist for Virgil van Dijk’s goal during the 5-2 win over Norwich City in the FA Cup fourth round and also scored against Chelsea in midweek.

After three consecutive losses against West Ham United, Fulham and Liverpool, Arsenal are back to winning ways.

The Gunners smashed Crystal Palace 5-0 and edged out Nottingham Forest 2-1 in their last two matches.

Mikel Arteta will be hopeful and continue banking on Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah to score more regularly, as no new strikers have been brought in during the January transfer window.

Saka is currently Arsenal’s top goal scorer and assist provider in the league with seven goals and eight assists.

Nketiah, who often comes off the bench, is next with five league goals and four assists, while Jesus and Martin Odegaard both have four goals and four assists.

Arteta will be expected to field a backline of Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhaes and Oleksandr Zinchenko in front of David Raya.

Odegaard and Declan Rice will also be retained in midfield with the last spot to be either Kai Havertz or Jorginho.

Every point to be won from now onwards will be crucial for Klopp and his team as they try to chase down their 20th league title.

The return of Man City’s Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland from their respective injuries have certainly put Liverpool and the other top-four chasing side on notice.

It was the brilliance of de Bruyne who made the difference when he came on as a second-half substitute to inspire a comeback against Newcastle United last month, winning the match 3-2 after being 2-1 down at half-time.

And Haaland remains the league’s top scorer with 14, same as Salah.

It must also be noted that the Emirates Stadium has been a happy hunting ground for Liverpool since Klopp became manager in October 2015.

The Reds have played there nine times in all competitions and won five times, including three league matches, and drawn twice.

With the Reds high on confidence and motivation, it would be no surprise if they can extend their current 15-match unbeaten streak.

The players are desperate to give the German a worthy and memorable sending off at the end of the season with some silverware, particularly the Premier League title.

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