Wenger warns of ‘ferocious battle’

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has warned his players they are in for a “ferocious battle” at Anfield tonight as Liverpool’s recent injury crisis begins to ease.

The Barclays Premier League leaders travel to Merseyside on the back of a 3-1 win over Sunderland in the FA Cup, while they have not lost against Liverpool in the last four matches between the sides.

The fixture is one of the competition’s more traditionally entertaining contests, with the last nine top-flight meetings between the clubs at Anfield producing 35 goals.

Arsenal will hope their recent record against Liverpool can help continue a fine run of form that has brought three straight victories in all competitions, while Wenger’s men have been beaten just once in their past 10.

But the Frenchman issued a word of warning to his side as Arsenal seek to keep their title challenge on track.

“Momentum creates confidence and that’s vital at this level,” he told reporters. “Overall, in December and January we have been consistent and that’s important as we go into an important part of the season with many big games.

“Consistency is a good basis for belief. Every time we go to Anfield we face a team who are up for it and it’s always a ferocious battle.

“[Liverpool manager] Jurgen Klopp has the personality to do well there, I don’t think you can explain their injuries by the intensity of [Klopp’s] game. [The challenge we face is] to play our game at a good pace but we are used to that pressing. It is not just Liverpool who do that.”

Wenger is able to welcome back midfielder Tomas Rosicky (knee) for the encounter, while back-up goalkeeper David Ospina (groin) could return to the squad. But Alexis Sanchez (hamstring), Danny Welbeck (knee) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) are still out.

Klopp has been dealing with an injury crisis that forced him into naming an entirely changed XI for their 2-2 FA Cup draw at League Two Exeter City on Friday, and he has signed Queens Park Rangers centre-back Steven Caulker, who had been on loan at Southampton this season, to ease their concerns in defence.

Klopp continues to be without Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren and Philippe Coutinho (all hamstring). But the Reds are hopeful of having centre-backs Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho (knee) available, while Jordon Ibe, Jordan Henderson and James Milner could also feature as Liverpool seek to end their inconsistent recent top-flight form.

The fixture is part of a tough double-header with rivals Manchester United set to visit Anfield on Sunday, and Klopp has urged his side to stand up and be counted.

“It’s always a big challenge to play against clubs like Arsenal and Manchester United,” he said. “But we have shown a plan against good footballing teams.

“We have to make good decisions in the right moment. We are looking forward to these games.” — Premier League

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