Roy Hodgson’s first Premier League match in charge of Liverpool is the Sunday afternoon kick-off against Arsenal.
This has been a bad match-up for Liverpool, who have won only three of their last 18 league matches against the Gunners.
Joe Cole will make his league debut for the Anfield side after his free transfer from Chelsea, and could be joined by fellow new signing Milan Jovanović.
Upfront, Fernando Torres has committed his immediate future to the club but after a picking up an injury during Spain’s World Cup victory, he is struggling to be ready for Sunday. With his history of injury problems, Hodgson won’t want to risk the star too early.
If Torres can’t start, then David Ngog is likely to fill in. The Frenchman scored three times in Liverpool’s 4-0 aggregate victory over Macedonian side Rabotnicki in the Europa League qualifiers.
Javier Mascherano is still seeking a move away from Anfield—but neither Inter Milan nor Barcelona have matched Liverpool’s valuation of the midfielder. Mascherano is unlikely to feature against Arsenal so Lucas will start in the holding midfield role.
Arsenal have injury concerns of their own. Arsene Wenger, already without injured Nicholas Bendtner, is unsure whether Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie will be fit to face Liverpool after their exploits in South Africa.
Fabregas played 45 minutes in Spain’s 1-1 friendly draw against Mexico, but the return-flight won’t do his preparation any good. Van Persie was rested by Dutch national team manager Bert van Marwijk but Wenger told the club’s website that he expects the forward to be short of match fitness.
If Van Persie doesn’t play, then new signing Marouane Chamakh could lead the line at Anfield. A free signing from Bordeaux, Chamakh has impressed in pre-season and Wenger is a long time admirer of the Moroccan.
The other new face will be Laurent Koscielny, who will partner Thomas Vermaelan at the heart of the defence. With four experienced centre backs having left the club over the summer, Koscielny might not have been the big name signing Gunner’s fans wanted, but reports from the club seem positive.
Importantly, Andrei Arshavin (pictured) should start and he has an excellent record at Anfield. The Russian has scored five goals in just two away games against Liverpool in the league.
Prediction: Unfortunately, this game has come a little too early for a number of World Cup stars so it might not be the cracker it could be. Honours even as the teams emerge with a point-a-piece after a 1-1 draw.