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Arsenal, Liverpool aim to keep defying expectations

Update: Arsenal extends its lead at the top, defeats Liverpool 2-0

Arsenal v Liverpool - Premier League

Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey combined to score a goal in each half as Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 on Saturday at Emirates Stadium to extended the lead at the top of the English Premier League table to five points.

The result leaves Liverpool in third place with 20 points, one in front of Manchester City, 7-0 victors at home against the struggling Norwich City, and behind Chelsea, shock 2-0 losers on travels to Newcastle, only on goal difference.

The Gunners opened the scoring in the 19th minute when Bacary Sagna raced past his napping fellow Frenchman Aly Cissokho, who was substituted at halftime, on the right flank and played in a teasing cross that found Cazorla arriving in the box.

The Spaniard, the shortest player on the field, connected with a header that hit the far post, but he was alert to the rebound and lopped a curling right footed shot back from the laces of his PUMA evoSPEED 1.2 in Blackberry Cordial/Fluo Orange/Fluo Pink across the outstretched arms of Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

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Ramsey put the game beyond the Reds in the 59 minute, despite a few near misses from Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, when he received Mesut Ozil’s ball at the top of the 18 yard box, let it bounce dangerously three times and used the Drive Lethal Zone of his adidas Predator in Pride Blue/ Running White/Orange to send the ball screaming and dipping into the back of net.

With six goals and three assists in his last seven EPL matches, Ramsey is an early candidate to follow fellow Welshman turned Real Madrid man Gareth Bale as the Professional Footballers Association Players’ Player of the Year.

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Proving the preseason pundits wrong, Saturday’s contest at the Emirates between Arsenal and Liverpool pits two top three teams against each other.

Coming into the English Premier League campaign, the widespread thought was that the Gunners didn’t do enough in the transfer window to give the squad depth, goalscoring going forward and steel at the back and that the Reds needed more time under manager Brendan Rogers to regain the club’s place among England’s elite.

Foiling the forecasts, both clubs have started the season, now nine games old, in glittering form. Arsenal is atop the table with 22 points as Liverpool sits just two behind with 20, trailing second-placed Chelsea by one-goal difference.

Each will be eager to prove that they can maintain their sterling form and plentiful-points-producing pace. Arsenal has been buoyed by the addition of Mesut Ozil and the improvement of Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey. They are the only EPL side to score in every league match they’ve played thus far.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have arguably the best striking duo in England with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez and spent well in the summer with Simon Mignolet providing consistency in goal and Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure providing strength in defense.

In 194 all-time matches, Liverpool has 75 wins to Arsenal’s 69, with the teams sharing the points on 50 other occasions. The Gunners have won 41 of 94 matches played at their North London home, while the Merseyside men have claimed three points on 21 visits.

Last year at the Emirates the two storied teams played a breathless affair with Liverpool taking a 2-0 lead through Suarez and Jordan Henderson only to be pegged back in a stunning two-minute flurry from Giroud and Theo Walcott.

Here’s hoping Saturday’s showdown lives up to that mark. The match kicks off at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

Who do you think will win, and who will make the difference? Let us know in the comments section below.