Crunch time for Reds, fight for top 4 continues

Placing the team above all: Mignolet says victories are more important than clean sheets.

IF the heartbreaking match just before the international break was not taxing enough for Liverpool, the Premier League resumes with another big fixture.

The clash with Arsenal is a do-or-die one. Anything less than three points would further hurt Liverpool’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League.

In the hard-fought battle for the top four, matches against fellow contenders are some of the most important ones in the league.

Liverpool lost the plot when they played Manchester United two weeks ago and gave the Red Devils the upper-hand throughout the match, and inevitably the three-points.

In addition to losing points (and face) to our greatest rivals, we also lost two key players ­– captain Steven Gerrard through a straight red for stamping on Ander Herrera and centre back Martin Skrtel to a ban imposed by the English Football Association for a similar deed on David De Gea.

As frustrating and humiliating as it is, there was no injustice here, especially in Gerrard’s case which looked more intentional.

It was a horrid foul when Chelsea’s Diego Costa stamped on Emre Can and Skrtel and if you watch replays of all four incidents, they are similar.

So it would be hypocritical if we were to cry foul against the Chelsea player but defend our own lads here.

One player getting away with a foul does not make it right for anyone else to attempt the same thing, even if it is to prove a point.

Moving on, the absence of both Gerrard and Skrtel will be felt when Liverpool trot on to the Emirates today. Itching to make a mark post-injury will be Lucas Leiva, Jon Flanagan, Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge.

Stealing the spotlight from the two big matches before and after the international break, as well as the Gerrard-Carragher charity game, was young Raheem Sterling who gave a controversial interview — without the permission of the club — about his contract saga.

Although Brendan Rodgers was quick to dismiss rumours and make a firm statement that the young man would not be leaving the club, it was awfully inappropriate for Sterling to create unnecessary distractions leading up to the Emirates match.

If anything, there is a bright side to look at. Sterling has much to prove tonight — whether he is doing it to impress the decision-makers of Arsenal or to convince the Liverpool bosses and fans of his loyalty to the club.

The fans will expect him, Philippe Coutinho and perhaps even Mario Balotelli to create an attacking force to remember on tonight’s visit to London.

Arsenal are on a high of 14 wins from their last 16 played across the board and in the Premier League specifically, they have collected 27 points from their last 10 games. But, Liverpool are not too far behind with 25 points.

The Gunners will be going all out to not only secure a top four finish but possibly give Chelsea and Manchester City a run for their money.

This fixture has always been an exciting one to watch, more so now with both teams being in the best form they have been this season.

Arsenal-Liverpool matches have also been known to be one of goals galore and for this scenario to be in favour of the visitors, Liverpool fans can confidently place their trust in Simon Mignolet — the unsung hero since the second half of the season kicked off.

Liverpool have had Mignolet to thank for many victories in the unbeaten run we had (until United rained on our parade) and tonight should be no different.

Speaking of defence, tonight would be a good time for Dejan Lovren to stamp his mark (figuratively speaking) if given the chance. It’s time he lived up to his hefty price tag.

The two Arsenal men the Reds need to keep an eye on would be Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez.

Giroud has been on form, scoring six goals in their last seven games and though he may seem like the most threatening one, Sanchez is not to be taken lightly.

The Chilean, having had an impressive start when he joined the Gunners, will be looking to step up his game for a final burst before the season ends.

Whether you are backing team Sterling-Coutinho or team Giroud-Sanchez, tonight should be an exciting one to watch and it could possibly be a fixture that will take place again very soon as both teams are favourites to make it to the FA Cup final.

Cheers to yet another weekend of great football!

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