05 January 2007

Liverpool v Arsenal 01.06.07

Full apologies for the lack of posts. Writer’s block has come at the same time as other busyness, while the transfer window has yet to fully kick into gear. Hopefully the silly season will furnish some material, but of course, it’s also an FA Cup weekend. All the choice games, save Liverpool/Arsenal, seem to be Sunday. Thanks Sky Sports.

12:15pm. Available in the US on Setanta Premium (bars) or Pay-per-view.

3rd round of the FA Cup.

Last 4 meetings:
0-3 Arsenal (a) 11.12.06
1-2 Arsenal (a) 03.11.06
1-0 Liverpool (h) 02.14.06
1-3 Arsenal (a) 05.08.05

Last 3 games:
Liverpool: 3-0 Bolton (h); 1-0 Spurs (a); 0-1 Blackburn (a)
Arsenal: 4-0 Charlton (h); 0-1 Sheffield United (a); 2-1 Watford (a)

FA Cup Winners:
Liverpool: 1965, 1974, 1986, 1989, 1992, 2001, 2006
Arsenal: 1930, 1936, 1950, 1971, 1979, 1993, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005

Referee: Steve Bennent

Guess at a squad:
Finnan Carragher Agger Riise
Pennant Gerrard Alonso Garcia
Kuyt Bellamy

With two games against Arsenal in less than a week, which game sees the first team and which features mostly reserves? Is more emphasis placed on the Carling Cup because it’s at the quarterfinal stage, or is the 3rd round of the FA Cup more important because it’s the FA Cup, not to mention Liverpool are holders? I’m assuming that the FA Cup will carry more weight; I shudder to remember the reaction after Liverpool went out at this stage to Burnley in Benitez’s first season.

That said, this is still a complete guess at a squad. Even if the first team is used for this game, there are still a number of possibilities (which, as we all know, is how Rafa likes it). Bellamy should be fit again, but both Crouch and Kuyt had excellent games last time out. It just seems more likely Crouch will feature with Fowler on Tuesday.

In the same vein, we could see any combination of Riise, Aurelio, Gonzalez, Pennant, and Garcia on the flanks. I find it hard to believe that Pennant would be left out with the way he’s been playing or Garcia because of his history against the Gunners, but honestly, any arrangement wouldn’t surprise me. But if Liverpool are playing a strong XI, I truly do believe Pennant and Garcia are the best options against Arsenal.

Arsenal will also seemingly put out a formidable line-up, but they will be without key players as well. Cesc Fabregas is suspended (there's some confusion whether or not van Persie's suspended; Liverpool's official site has him suspended, other sources have him suspended, but the BBC has him included in the squad list and Arsenal's official site has no mention either way) while Gallas, Adebayor, Walcott, and Ljungberg are still injured. However, key players like Henry, Gilberto Lehmann, and Toure are all named in the squad and figure to start.

No matter that this is a 3rd round Cup game. This game will be fairly important for both morale and form. Arsenal embarrassed Liverpool in the league earlier in the season, and the home side will be looking for payback. Not to mention that as holders, Liverpool have that much more incentive to do well. As the game is at Anfield, Liverpool will look to set the tempo and style of the game, and impose themselves on Arsenal, in contrast to the second half of November’s game at the Emirates. If Liverpool can play their style of soccer while continuing the touch in front of goal displayed against Bolton, Charlton, and Fulham, there’s more than a good chance of advancing to the next stage.

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