Mathieu Flamini will make a welcome return for Arsenal as they look to avenge their demoralizing 5-1 loss to Liverpool last weekend when they take on the same opponents in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday. The midfielder has missed the last three games through suspension and is likely to go straight back into the side to bolster a midfield that was ripped apart by Liverpool a week ago.
Arsenal’s injury problems in midfield are still far from over with Aaron Ramsey and January loan signing Kim Kallstrom remaining on the sidelines. Arsene Wenger confirmed in his press conference on Friday that he has no new injury concerns following Wednesday’s drab goalless result with Manchester United, however, Santi Cazorla is battling an illness that threatens his participation at the Emirates Stadium.
The clash with Liverpool comes in the midst of a tough run of fixtures that has so far not gone to plan for the title-chasing Gunners. With Bayern Munich coming to the Emirates just three days after Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, there remains a possibility that Wenger will look to make changes to his lineup on Sunday. Given that the club have gone close to nine years without a trophy, such a decision would doubles attract much ire from some Arsenal fans, especially with the FA Cup representing a better chance at silverware than the Champions League.
It would be no surprise to see Serge Gnabry and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming into the team, although giving the recent lackluster performances of the team, it could be argued that the duo’s inclusion would in fact be strengthening the lineup.
Liverpool have no such concerns about squad rotation, with a lack of European action this season meaning they can focus squarely on the Premier League and FA Cup. Brendan Rodgers’ side are now just four points off the league’s summit after they followed up their scintillating dismantling of Arsenal with a dramatic 3-2 win at Fulham in which they twice came from behind. After Steven Gerrard struck an injury-time penalty, Liverpool received a further boost when Daniel Agger came off the bench to make his first appearance since suffering a calf injury six weeks ago.
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The Dane could well be in from the start on Sunday, especially with Kolo Toure making a costly error for the second away match in succession at Craven Cottage. Liverpool’s defense could soon be boosted further by Glen Johnson’s return from a series of niggling injuries, although Rodgers suggested that Sunday’s game might come too soon for the England international.
"Glen Johnson is working very well. I'm not sure he'll be ready for the game this weekend, but if we can have a good week next week he'll be very close,” he said, according to Liverpool’s official website.
"He looks fresher and he looks fitter. That period that he's had out has really helped him. He's in good condition. But there is still a bit to go yet. Daniel Agger is back in the squad and it's as it was really."
Liverpool are likely to be unchanged in midfield and forward areas, with Rodgers having found a formula to get the best out of pacey attacking talent.
D: Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs
M: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Flamini
Gnabry, Ozil, Rosicky
D: Flanagan, Skrtel, Agger, Cissokho
M: Henderson, Gerrard, Coutinho
F: Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling