Liverpool (+215) at Arsenal (+125), Draw (+240)
Two storied clubs with grand ambitions will look to start the 2016-17 EPL season off on the right foot this Sunday (August 14) as Arsenal host Liverpool at the Emirates in London (11:00 AM Eastern).
Liverpool are coming off a disappointing eighth-place finish last season, tallying just 60 points, a full 21 back of champion Leicester. The Gunners, on the other hand, were the EPL runners-up, although their 71 points were well back of Leicester, as well, who dominated the league with 81 points on the year.
The Reds haven’t looked great through the preseason, losing three of five friendlies, including an embarrassing 4-0 setback to German side Mainz. They did post an impressive 4-0 win over Barcelona, though, as well as a 2-0 victory over AC Milan.
Arsenal won four of their last five friendlies; their level of competition wasn’t as high, generally, but they did beat EPL power Man City (3-2) and a team of MLS all-stars (2-1).
Manager Arsene Wenger may need another high-scoring game from his team if the Gunners are going to start the season with a win. Arsenal will be missing three defenders Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, and Gabriel – due to injury. Say what you will about Liverpool, but the team can score. They averaged 1.7 goals per game last year (63 goals in 38 matches) in EPL play and had five players score ten or more in competitive matches.
Arsenal’s offense was even better (65 goals in 38 matches) last year and should be just as potent this time around, led by Olivier Giroud (24 goals) and Alexis Sanchez (17 goals).
All the firepower on both sides of the field made last year’s early season 0-0 draw at the Emirates all the more surprising. The teams more than made up for it in the second meeting of the year, playing to a thrilling 3-3 draw in Liverpool.
I expect something akin to that second game come Sunday. Both teams will see their offense as their strength – especially with Arsenal missing so many key defenders. Neither will want to start the year with a loss, but neither will want to let the other flex its offensive muscle, and that means keeping the ball at the opposite end of the field.
I see goals being scored. I also see a draw when all is said and done.
Pick: Draw (+240).
(Photo Credit: joshjdss (Arsenal Members’ Day 2015) CC BY 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)