League leaders Arsenal will be looking to make it eight wins from nine matches when they take on Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
The visitors, meanwhile, are aiming to return to winning ways having drawn their last two league matches.
While Arsenal’s expectations undoubtedly raised after acquiring Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from champions Manchester City in the summer transfer window, even the most ardent Gunners fan may not have predicted such a fast start to the campaign from their side.
Mikel Arteta’s side preserved their status at the top of the Premier League by beating their fiercest rivals Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 in the North London derby last weekend, with Jesus, Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka each on the scoresheet.
Emerson Royal’s straight red card for a cynical challenge on Gabriel Martinelli moments after the hour mark undoubtedly helped Arsenal ease to their victory, but they were the better side throughout and on current form look set for their first title challenge in several seasons.
Liverpool, of course, are the only team who have managed to keep pace with Pep Guardiola’s Man City in recent times, making Sunday’s clash an extremely exciting and potentially telling one in terms of anticipating how the rest of the season may unfold.
The Gunners extended their winning run in all competitions at home to eight matches by beating Bodo/Glimt 3-0 in the Europa League on Thursday evening. If they can make it nine in a row on Sunday and keep ahead of Man City at the top of the table in the process, then what previously seemed to be wild dreams may become perceived as more realistic ambitions.
Liverpool, on the other hand, are suffering their poorest start to a season in several years, with Jurgen Klopp’s side heading into Sunday’s meeting 11 points behind their forthcoming opponents (albeit with one game in hand).
After taking just two points from their opening three games, the Merseysiders looked to have turned a corner with successive home wins against Bournemouth and Newcastle United, but they have since been held by Everton and Brighton & Hove Albion.
The Reds showed great character to turn around a 2-0 deficit against the Seagulls at Anfield last weekend to lead 3-2 in the second half, with Roberto Firmino bagging a brace either side of half-time, but an inspired Leandro Trossard was not to be stopped on the day as the Belgian sealed his hat-trick – and snatched a point for his side – with only seven minutes of normal time remaining.
Klopp switched to a more attacking formation against Rangers in the Champions League on Tuesday, with four attackers starting in front of Thiago Alcantara and club captain Jordan Henderson as a midfield pairing. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick and Mohamed Salah’s penalty ultimately downed last season’s Europa League runners-up in a comfortable 2-0 victory.
Whether the German feels his side are capable of visiting an in-form Arsenal side at the Emirates Stadium with such a bold system remains to be seen, especially as it is surely a must not lose game if they are to harbour any realistic hopes of winning the Premier League this season.
Arteta made eight changes for his side’s victory against Bodo/Glimt in midweek, with Zinchenko rested after missing Wednesday’s training session as a precaution following his recent calf injury.
The Ukraine full-back was a surprise starter against Spurs last time out in the Premier League, and he should be fit enough to replace Kieran Tierney at left-back on Sunday.
Martinelli, Xhaka and Gabriel were the three players to retain their places in the starting XI and the trio will almost certainly start once again against Liverpool, with club captain Martin Odegaard set to return in the attacking midfield role despite Fabio Vieira adding to his tally from that position in midweek.
Emile Smith Rowe and Mohamed Elneny are expected to remain sidelined with muscle injuries.
Liverpool, meanwhile, are expected to travel without midfielders Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arthur and Curtis Jones due to injury, although the latter is edging closer to a return after returning to training on Thursday.
Ibrahima Konate was named among the substitutes for the first time this season against Rangers after suffering a knee injury in pre-season, but Klopp is unlikely to make any changes to his back line, especially with Andrew Robertson still sidelined with his own knee issue.
The German’s main dilemma will be whether to revert to his usual 4-3-3 formation or stick with the 4-2-3-1 system that secured a win against Rangers on Tuesday, with the former likely to be preferred given Arsenal’s slick possession game in midfield.
As such, Fabinho could replace Darwin Nunez, with Salah and Luis Diaz dovetailing either side of Diogo Jota, although Firmino does offer an alternative option given his excellent start to the season.
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Jesus
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Jota, Diaz