Arsenal are set to host Liverpool in the FA Cup third round, and we take a look at the three stars who can influence the outcome of this clash.

Arsenal and Liverpool have had a few brushes in the past playing in the FA Cup, but the one they are about to play may have a different feel to it. The two sides have had some classic clashes before, with the most recent one coming in 2014, when the Gunners beat the Reds in a fifth-round encounter and then went on to lift the coveted trophy.

However, this time around, the two teams are in the thick of a title race, with this clash being the second of their third meeting in a short period. The first one ended in an eventful draw at Anfield, and now the English heavyweights will play the third round FA Cup clash at the Emirates before they will reconvene again early in February in North London.

Both teams will set put firmly despite their respective problems with injuries and absentees. Yet, this is not one of those games where weakened teams will take the field, as the mini-break in English football probably helps them keep it strong.

Arsenal have won this competition a record 14 times in their history, with the most recent one coming in the 2019/20 season, which was also Mikel Arteta’s first. Jurgen Klopp has also tasted victory by lifting this prestigious cup back in 2021/22, beating Chelsea on penalties in the Wembley final.

There is a lot of emphasis placed on this clash at the Emirates, especially considering these two teams are battling for significant honours elsewhere. Here, we look at three players combined who can have an influential effect on the outcome of this clash.

Liverpool are without a host of players for this one, including their talismanic attacker Mohamed Salah. Taking his place in the side will be Jota, who has only returned from injury but has looked sharp. There is another character in this Reds’ side as Virgil van Dijk must also have an influential game.

Arsenal have the usual injury problems, but they are also missing a few of their critical stars, including those who have already left to represent their countries for the upcoming Asian Cup and AFCON. The Gunners will focus on Bukayo Saka and midfield metronome Declan Rice to have a game that helps the team tick.

Bukayo Saka

The Englisman has had a difficult period following some niggling injury issues this season as well as a slight dip in his form. It is not him alone, but the entire Arsenal attack have looked toothless at times this campaign, and there has to come a moment when this changes.

More importantly, Arsenal are looking for someone to inspire the attacking lineup to bring something different, as their ideas have looked weak in the final third of late. Saka has the elements to change things around, and he must take on such a big stage with poise to kick-start things for his team.

Saka will probably go up against the likes of Joe Gomez and van Dijk, meaning he does not have room for errors in his game. The winger has to produce one of his best performances and bring Arsenal out of their slump.

A top display against the Red will go a long way in instilling faith in this side, which also has no more room for errors either in the FA Cup or, more importantly, the Premier League. With the Emirates squad behind the Arsenal academy stay to galvanise, all eyes will be on Saka ahead of this pivotal clash with Liverpool in north London.

Diogo Jota

The Portuguese attacker will face one of his favourite sides to play against Arsenal, and Jurgen Klopp will want a top performance from his forward. Jota has missed a lot of games through injury issues, and the Arsenal fans must have been relieved not to see him playing against them at Anfield in December.

After Leicester City, Jota prefers to play against Arsenal, scoring eight times against the Gunners in 13 appearances. He has done a lot of damage to them in the past, and more than ever, Liverpool fans will want the Portuguese forward to come to the party once more.

This fixture and the ones after this will place greater emphasis on Jota, who is seen as the replacement for Salah on the side. Emulating the Egyptian is a big ask, but he can do so to some degree, if not to the winger’s level. Taking Liverpool past Arsenal and into the next round of the FA Cup will go a long way to bring Jota to the fore and into Klopp’s plans for the remainder of the season.

Declan Rice

The influential midfielder has also had a difficult period in the last two games and needs a galvanising performance to start the push Arsenal needs in this moment of difficulty. Rice has been a sensational signing for the Gunners, but the Fulham loss exposed something different about him.

The whole team was flat in general, but they need a player to start pushing towards their objectives in the coming weeks. They are already playing Liverpool in this knockout competition, and Rice must come to the surface to start putting in man-of-the-match displays.

He has essentially been good against the big teams and seems like a top performer. Arteta must have identified Liverpool’s midfield as probably the weak link in Klopp’s armour, and what better weapon to have than Rice?

His battle with Alexis Mac Allister and how he helps push Arsenal further forward will catch the eye of the Emirates. Rice must put in that star performance that the North Londoners have seen many times already, but craving for more from their midfield metronome.

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