Chelsea’s dominance of the 2016/17 Premier League has been such that two of the title contenders at the start of the season—Liverpool and Arsenal—go into Saturday’s clash at Anfield with nothing more than a top four spot and place in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League to play for.
Liverpool had been in contention for the league title until New Year’s Day. Jurgen Klopp’s men were just six points (43) off Chelsea (49) at the end of Gameweek 19 and were the team in second place. What’s more, the Reds had the second leg clash against Chelsea to be played too, at Anfield.
And, given the Reds’ record against the other teams in the top six, you probably fancied them to give Chelsea a run for their money and unlike in the 2013/14 season, potentially go on to win the title. Not to forget, Liverpool were on course for an unlikely domestic treble too: they were in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup, having been pitted against Southampton, and the FA Cup was about to begin.
Arsenal, on the other hand, were nine points off the top and three points lesser (40) than second-placed Liverpool. The Gunners had the second leg against Chelsea to be played too, but they weren’t as favoured as Liverpool were, to push their London rivals or even displace them from the top of the table.
And, here we are, going into the 27th round of matches and the business end of the 2016/17 Premier League, being able to say that Arsenal and Liverpool, who are fourth and fifth currently, are in a proper scrap for a top four spot.
Although both the teams will want to win tonight’s Anfield clash, it’s just that bit more important for the hosts to win than for the visitors.
Premier League 2016/17: Liverpool vs Arsenal, 4 March 2017, Anfield
Liverpool have yet to lose any of their matches against the other teams in the current top six: Manchester United (two draws), Manchester City (one win), Chelsea (one win and one draw), Arsenal (one win), and Tottenham Hotspur (one draw and one win), accruing 16 points from eight fixtures. Aforementioned is an example which makes their fight now for a top four spot slightly bizarre.
Liverpool have only two fixtures remaining against their top four rivals—including tonight’s home clash vs Arsenal and a meeting with Manchester City at the Etihad on 19 March—meaning, to remain in control of their own destiny, Klopp and co. must win tonight’s encounter against Arsenal.
Mind you, the Reds have played a match more (26) than the Gunners and are merely playing for a top-four Premier League finish. So, for their own morale and the best possible finish to what will nonetheless be another disappointing campaign, Liverpool must ideally beat Arsenal tonight.
Arsenal will still have three matches to be played against top four rivals, after tonight’s clash at Anfield. And, although matches in hand do not guarantee you any points, the Gunners will very much be in control of their own destiny until the end of this season, with home matches to be played against the Manchester clubs and the second North London derby of 2016-17 Premier League season, to be played at White Hart Lane on April 30 (Sunday).
Albeit a win for Arsenal will give them a huge boost, they can afford to play a little defensively and ensure that Liverpool do not get their own way at Anfield, in front of an always buzzing and boisterous crowd.
Liverpool vs Arsenal has produced high-scoring contests in recent seasons, but I just feel that this attractive fixture might not be full of goals tonight.
Who, in your opinion, will win tonight’s clash?