Energised by Liverpool’s emphatic progress in Europe, Simon Mignolet has challenged the Reds to underline their ascension with a victory against Premier League title rivals Arsenal this weekend. Jurgen Klopp’s side swept into the Champions League group stage for the first time in three years with a 4-2 win over Hoffenheim on Wednesday. The electric atmosphere at Anfield fuelled Liverpool’s vibrant display in midweek and Belgian goalkeeper Mignolet expects Arsenal to be greeted with another hostile reception from the Kop on Sunday.
After their opening weekend draw with Watford, Liverpool have reeled off three successive victories in all competitions to prove they can thrive without injured Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho.
Now Mignolet wants Liverpool to build their momentum by securing a statement of intent victory over the Gunners. “At Anfield it is always a special night and I think we showed what we can do over here. It is electric, that is what Anfield is about and this is where we belong,” he said. “Everybody has been really eager to play again at this stage, that is where all the history has been made at this football club.”
In contrast to Liverpool’s surge, Arsenal are already facing a familiar crisis of confidence after coming from behind to narrowly beat Leicester and then slipping to a 1-0 defeat at Stoke last weekend. Losing to Stoke exposed the fault lines in Arsenal’s defence, while Arsene Wenger’s side were once again unable to turn possession into goals with star forward Alexis Sanchez sidelined.
Sanchez has missed the start of the season due to injury and illness, but the Chile international is expected to make his first appearance on Sunday. Amid continued speculation that Sanchez wants to leave Arsenal before his contract expires at the end of the season, Wenger insisted he was happy to welcome back a player wanted by Manchester City and Chelsea. “He has always been focused on his job, he loves to play football and I don’t think he is too disturbed by all the noises that happen,” Wenger said. “Players at that level are used to it now, some deal better with it than others but I don’t think he is too bothered by that.”
Manchester United have set the early pace with two successive 4-0 wins to climb to the top of the table and Jose Mourinho’s men hope to cap a positive week by defeating Leicester at Old Trafford. Mourinho was boosted on Thursday by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s decision to sign a one-year contract with United after his impressive first season in England was curtailed by a serious knee injury.
Ibrahimovic won’t be back for a few months yet, but in his absence United’s British record signing Romelu Lukaku has hit the ground running. The Belgian international has scored three goals in his first two league games and Ibrahimovic believes that, despite losing club captain Wayne Rooney this summer, United are far stronger thanks to the development of Marcus Rashford and the arrival of Lukaku.
“Signing Lukaku makes us even stronger because he has different qualities from me as a striker and from Rashford as a striker. He is a powerful guy and he brings extra qualities in a game,” said Ibrahimovic.
Rooney’s move back to his boyhood club Everton has also started well, with the 31-year-old scoring in his first two league matches. Ahead of Everton’s trip to champions Chelsea on Sunday, Rooney this week announced this retirement from England duty to allow him to focus on finishing his career on a high with the Toffees.