Liverpool and Arsenal battle it out for semi-final berth

April 8th, 2008 - 1:11 pm ICT by admin  

(Champions League Preview)
London, April 8 (DPA) Liverpool and Arsenal meet at Anfield in the final match of a trio of games, one that will decide which of them progresses to the semi-finals of the Champions League football. Liverpool hold a slight advantage Tuesday night, having gained a crucial away goal in the 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium in the first leg last week but Arsenal will be hoping for the kind of result they achieved in the previous round, when they won 2-0 at AC Milan to advance.

Five-time champions Liverpool are the bookmakers’ favourites to advance, with the advantage of playing the second leg expected to help them through, but their manager Rafael Benitez is wary of Arsenal’s ability.

And though he knows a goalless draw would put Liverpool through on the away goals rule, the Spaniard is urging his side to play to win.

“We have confidence, but know they have quality, can play well away and are dangerous,” he said.

“It is very difficult to play for a 0-0 draw. I don’t know how to do it.”

Having made eight changes to their side for Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Arsenal in the Premier League, Liverpool may have forged an extra psychological edge with the London side having had to use more of their top players as they chased the win they needed to stay in touch with the leaders, Manchester United.

But Benitez said the fact that Arsenal are now six points behind United with just five games to go may concentrate Arsene Wenger’s players’ minds on the Champions League.

“Maybe the only option now for them is the Champions League, which means they will be more dangerous for us,” he said.

“But for us to score an away goal and then to have the prospect of them having to play against our fans at Anfield next, is extremely important for us. Arsenal are such a good team, so we will need a massive effort from everyone to get through to the semi-finals.”

Liverpool are almost certain to play the same starting XI they did in the first leg, which will mean recalls for Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Ryan Babel, Dirk Kuyt, Sam Hyypia and Fabio Aurelio.

Arsenal, on the other hand, chasing their first Champions League trophy, are set to be without striker Robin van Persie, who limped off at half-time in the first leg with a thigh injury and is struggling to make it for the Anfield game.

Wenger will ask his players for one more huge effort at Anfield, even if he is refusing to give up the battle for the league title.

“It is still too early to make any conclusions about our season but I know we can qualify on Tuesday because we have the quality to do it,” he said.

“We have made progress compared to last season because we have been challenging for the title right from the start and we are in the last eight in the Champions League. The young players have done remarkably well and carried the team. Now we need to prepare physically and mentally for Tuesday.

Emmanuel Adebayor, Alexander Hleb, Gael Clichy and Philippe Senderos will return to the starting line-up after not starting the league match.

“We have the quality and we know we have the mental strength to come back and win,” Adebayor said.

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