Gunners take aim at Reds

LONDON. — Two teams coping very differently with English football’s high-intensity mid-season fixture programme meet tomorrow night when English Premier League leaders Arsenal resume their pursuit of the title at injury-ravaged Liverpool.

While Arsenal could afford to make five changes as they breezed past Sunderland in the FA Cup on Saturday, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s decision to field a youthful starting XI at fourth-tier Exeter City on Friday almost backfired as his side scraped a 2-2 draw.

First-team regulars like Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Per Mertesacker will come back into the Arsenal team at Anfield and right-back Hector Bellerin believes such strength in depth bodes well for the months ahead.

“The legs are fine and we have shown that we have very good players on the bench also and the rotation helps us get good results,” said the Spaniard, who set up goals for Ramsey and Olivier Giroud in the 3-1 success against Sunderland.

“We have a lot of games and they are all hard games, but we have to respond in the way we did (against Sunderland) and I’m sure we will be fine.

“The team was up to the challenge. We didn’t rush the games and we knew we had to be patient. It is nice to get the three goals and that is confidence for the team as we had a difficult week ahead.” Wenger is expecting Klopp’s injury-ravaged Reds, however, to find the strength to provide a far tougher test tomorrow night.

“Don’t worry!” said the Arsenal boss. “Arsene is a very good doctor! They always heal when they play against us!”

Asked whether he was surprised at Liverpool’s severely under-strength team, held at Exeter in their Third Round tie on Friday night, Wenger added: “No.

“They had many injures and I think they didn’t want more injuries before an important week.

“The team who played on Friday night is not the team who will play against us.”

But Klopp can only envy the riches at Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger’s disposal as he contemplates an injury list that currently features 11 senior players.

Seven of those – including playmaker Philippe Coutinho, striker Daniel Sturridge and centre-backs Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel – have hamstring problems, but Klopp has dismissed suggestions that his hard-running playing style is to blame.

Assessing the situation after the draw at Exeter, he said: “The main problems we have is because our centre-halves are injured in this moment.

Fixtures (all 9:45pm unless otherwise stated)

Today: Aston Villa v Crystal Palace, Bournemouth v West Ham United, Newcastle United v Manchester United

Tomorrow: Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool v Arsenal (10pm), Manchester City v Everton, Southampton v Watford, Stoke City v Norwich City, Swansea City v Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City (10pm). — AFP.

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