Arsenal face Liverpool in the FA Cup fifth round at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
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CUP OF PLENTY
KEY BATTLE - MERTESACKER v STURRIDGE
Sunday's game at Emirates Stadium offers Arsenal an almost immediate shot at redemption after their 5-1 defeat at Anfield last Saturday - but to do so they will have deliver a much-improved defensive performance.
Daniel Sturridge was one of the key figures for Brendan Rodgers' side in that game and his pace and movement caused real problems for Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. The England international has enjoyed a major career resurgence since swapping Chelsea for Liverpool, and this season has 17 goals in 21 appearances in all competitions, including eight in his nine matches.
Mertesacker can be expected to drop slightly deeper to deal with Sturridge, and the team's accomplished defensive performance against Manchester United on Wednesday indicates that the Anfield defeat was merely an aberration. The Germany international has had a fine season, and has won an impressive 69.4 per cent of his overall duels and 72.3 per cent of his aerial duels. Not only that, he is successful with 7/10 tackles that he attempts and has made a mighty 156 clearances.
He may have his hands full with Sturridge again on Sunday, but Mertesacker loves a challenge and you can rely on him to rise to the occasion in yet another huge game for the Gunners.
ARSENAL v LIVERPOOL - MATCH FACTS
- The two teams have met in the FA Cup in 12 previous seasons, with the Gunners coming out on top seven times (including winning two finals), with the Reds winning one final and progressing on four additional occasions
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last eight FA Cup matches against Liverpool, winning four, drawing three with that defeat coming in the 2001 final
- Arsenal have only lost one of their last 36 FA Cup home games, against Blackburn last season, with their previous FA Cup defeat on home soil coming against Leeds in 1997
- Liverpool have won just two of their last six away FA Cup games, losing three and drawing one
- Santi Cazorla has netted in both of Arsenal’s games in the competition this season
- Of Liverpool’s last eight appearances in the fifth round, they have made it through six times, although they have failed in two of their last four attempts
- Arsenal have kept 11 clean sheets in their last 12 competitive matches at the Emirates Stadium
- Liverpool have not lost any of their last nine competitive matches; winning seven and drawing two
The matchday programme is now available on the iPad! Find out more here.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 14 Feb 2014