01 April 2008

Liverpool at Arsenal 04.02.08

2:45pm on espn2

Round of 16:
Liverpool: 1-0 Inter (a); 2-0 Inter (h)
Arsenal: 0-2 Milan (a); 0-0 Milan (h)

Group Stage:
Liverpool: 4-0 Marseille (a); 4-1 Porto (h); 8-0 Besiktas (h); 1-2 Besiktas (a); 0-1 Marseille (h); 1-1 Porto (a)
Arsenal: 2-1 Steaua (h); 1-3 Sevilla (a); 0-0 Slavia (a); 7-0 Slavia (h); 1-0 Steaua (h); 3-0 Sevilla (h)

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Everton (h); 0-3 United (a); 2-1 Reading (h)
Arsenal: 3-2 Bolton (a); 1-2 Chelsea (a); 1-1 Boro (h)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Gerrard, Kuyt 5; Crouch, Torres 4; Babel, Benayoun 3; Hyypia, Voronin 1
Arsenal: Fabregas 6; Eduardo 3; Bendtner, Hleb, van Persie, Walcott 2; Adebayor, Diaby, Rosicky 1

Referee: Pieter Vink (NED). This is Vink’s first season as a Champions League referee, and he’s never been in charge of a Liverpool match.

Guess at a squad
Carragher Skrtel Hyypia Aurelio
Alonso Mascherano
Kuyt Gerrard Babel

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to preview three straight games against the same opposition.

It goes without saying that Liverpool’s record in the Champions League has been better than in the Premiership. But the only English opposition Liverpool’s faced in European competition has been Chelsea, with six games against the Blues since 04-05 (two wins, three draws and one loss, with Liverpool advancing every season). Is Liverpool really better against all opposition in Europe or just against Mourinho?

Liverpool and Arsenal met four times last season, with Arsenal winning both cup games and at the Emirates, while Liverpool recorded a comprehensive 4-1 victory at Anfield in the final match-up. But I doubt those results will have much bearing on this season: Henry’s gone, Fabregas’ has improved by leaps and bounds, and despite a tough stretch over the past month or so, Arsenal’s young squad has become an actual team. Oh, and Liverpool now has that 20-goal striker named Fernando Torres.

As always, it bears repeating; once again, Torres will be crucial. It’s hard to predict, with three games against the same team in a week, but I’d imagine Liverpool will continue in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Given the first leg is at Arsenal, Liverpool’s main objective will be to not concede, and hopefully strike on the counter.

The partnership between Gerrard and Torres, especially on the break, is a big reason why I’m actually confident going into this tie. I’m loving Gerrard in a free role behind Torres; Gerrard has the space and freedom to attack as he does best, the two of them link up fantastically (better than anyone could have hoped in Torres’ first season), and it’s obvious each adores being on the same team as the other, especially given their respective legacies of being a one-man team. Combined they’ve scored 47 of Liverpool’s 97 goals, little different than the vaunted pairings of Rooney and Ronaldo, and Drogba and Lampard.

It seems like both Aurelio and Arbeloa were rested with an eye on tomorrow’s match, but from the official site:
Either Alvaro Arbeloa or Fabio Aurelio also looks set to return after both were rested for the Merseyside derby.

Benitez said: "We wanted to protect one of them, but I will not make that decision public at the moment."
Riise played well against Everton, in one of his better performances this season, but it’s impossible to forget Aurelio against Arsenal last season, as he was utterly irrepressible in the 4-1 win. Also, that Benitez used the phrase “protect one of them” leads me to believe he’s referring to Aurelio given how much time Fabio’s missed due to injury. But Arbeloa can also play at left back, as we learned in Europe last season.

Meanwhile, keeping Carra at right back and both Skrtel and Hyypia in the line-up isn’t out of the question, especially given how impressive the defense was against Everton. As said earlier, not conceding should be tomorrow’s main priority, and a backline of Carragher-Skrtel-Hyypia-Aurelio/Riise is probably Liverpool’s most assured. Taking an away goal to Anfield would be a huge boon, but taking a clean sheet would be even better.

In team news, Gerrard, Carragher, and Aurelio would miss the second leg if they pick up a yellow tomorrow, while the same goes for Adebayor, Clichy, Denilson, Eboue, and Hleb for Arsenal. Mascherano's league suspension, which is technically up (until the FA's next hearing in two days), doesn't count for European matches.

Having read the rest of this “preview,” it’s probably needless to say that I’m fairly conflicted over how Liverpool will approach this match. But tomorrow will say a lot about how Benitez will plan for the next two against Arsenal, and how well Liverpool will cope with this spate of fixtures.


iskoppa said...

Hi Nate, the first leg is in North London mate! Its going to be a long slog and thats for sure, we have to pull something out of the bag and make it count! thyotherside

nate said...

Ha, at least I got it right in the title.

"At Arsenal" writes way too much like "at Anfield.

Thanks much, fixed now.

Mike Georger said...

i really think the three in a row favors us because the league game is leaps and bounds more important for arsenal. we can go into that game and sit back and defend like a mother fucker, they have to win it and if we can tire them out before tuesday, well thats just clutch huge.

a nil nil tie would be worrysome, if we walk out at 1-1 ill be pig in shit happy.

ive spent the last few hours watching all my videos on crazy horse and stevie, getting all pumped up. not looking forward to dreaming about the game all night though, i wake up and realize we didnt win 10-0

Django said...

Thanks for the preview Nate...I agree that right now it's hard to make heads or tails of how the second and third matches will play out, I really feel that today will set the tone, hopefully in our favor. Babel and Riise/Aurelio will be massive, I think Eboue (if he plays) and their fill in at right back can definitely be exploited on the counter. Looking forward to the next 6 days, I may not shower or change shirts depending on today...YNWA

Mike Georger said...

"It's honours even at half time in Arsenal and Liverpool's Champions League quarter-final tie."

im pretty sure espn is using a spam bot to writer their blurbs now. honours even? what the fuck

nate said...

hey, i've used "honors even" before. it's suitably poetic (read: pompous), and there's only so many ways to say "draw."