Arsene Wenger says Arsenal will face a stern test of their Premier League title credentials when they take on Liverpool on Wednesday.
Wenger’s side head to Anfield two points clear at the head of the table and having won five of their last six league games.
The weekend FA Cup third round victory over Sunderland extended their winning run and Wenger acknowledges his side’s recent success has strengthened the belief they can push on during the second half of the season.
The Gunners manager, though, knows any meeting with Liverpool carries an extra edge that was demonstrated when the sides met on Merseyside last season, with the home side clinching a point thanks to Martin Skrtel’s stoppage-time equalizer.
“The momentum creates confidence and confidence is vital at that level,” Wenger said.
“In December and now in January we have been consistent and we go into a very important part of the season because we play many games.
“Every time we go to Anfield, we face a team who is up for it. It’s always a ferocious battle, no matter who the manager is.
“They had a very strong manager before, they have a very strong one now and Jurgen Klopp has the personality to do well there.”
Wenger hopes to add Basel midfielder Mohamed Elneny to his squad this week.
“I expect Mohamed yes, we are positive that this week it can happen,” he said.
And his options will shortly be strengthened by the return to fitness of Alexis Sanchez, although the Chile striker will not make the trip to Liverpool.
“We think he will be short for Wednesday,” said Wenger.
“He has a chance to be available for Sunday against Stoke. He is always keen to play.”
– Big challenge –
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is looking forward rather than back as he prepares to take on Wenger in English football for the first time.
The pair have previously met at Champions League level with honors almost even, Wenger enjoying three wins to Klopp’s two and a draw from his time in charge at Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.
Klopp took over at Liverpool after the sides had drawn 0-0 at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League in August.
And the German admits watching Wenger’s work at closer quarters has impressed him even more as the Liverpool boss prepares for huge back-to-back home games against the Gunners and Manchester United.
“We shouldn’t talk too much about my experiences of playing against Arsenal. We will find a current plan for this game,” Klopp said.
“It’s always a big challenge to play against clubs like Arsenal or Manchester United.
“It’s a good challenge, not easy, but really interesting. We have to make good decisions in the right moment. We are looking forward to these games.
“My respect for Arsene Wenger grows day by day. It’s really intensive to work in the Premier League and he’s done a brilliant job.”
Klopp’s remarks regarding Wenger, looking to lead Arsenal to a fourth league title but first since 2004, reflect his initial impressions of managing in England.
Klopp, who took over at Anfield in October, said that the number of fixtures has been the biggest difference to managing on the continent, with Liverpool facing the possibility of playing nine games in January.
That workload is stretching a squad that has been badly hit by injuries, although Klopp hopes to have a number of key players back for the game on Wednesday when the eighth-placed Reds will be looking for a third win in four league games.
After having no senior central defenders available for last Friday’s 2-2 FA Cup draw at Exeter, ex-Arsenal defender Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho are both expected to be fit.
Captain Jordan Henderson is also set to return in midfield and winger Jordon Ibe is fit after hamstring trouble.