07 April 2008

Liverpool v Arsenal 04.08.08

2:45pm on espn2

1-1 on aggregate. Liverpool leads on the away goals rule.

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: 1-1 Arse (a); 1-1 Arse (a); 1-0 Everton (h)
Arsenal: 1-1 Liverpool (h); 1-1 Liverpool (h); 3-2 Bolton (a)

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

Referee: Peter Fröjdfeldt (SWE)

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

Finally, the last game against Arsenal. It’s to decide who makes the semifinals of the Champions League, and Liverpool hold a narrow edge thanks to the away goal at the Emirates.

The line-up should look a lot like the last leg. I’m guessing it’ll be the same front six, despite Crouch’s play over the weekend. It’s too bad really, because Crouch doesn’t deserve to sit after Saturday’s performance, but with this formation it’s always going to be Crouch or Torres, especially with Gerrard roaming in the free role between the lines.

I wouldn’t be surprised with the same backline as Wednesday either, but I’ve gone for an amalgamation of the last two games. Liverpool’s defense, aside from one bad moment on a set play in both rounds, has been excellent. I hope to see Finnan keep his place in the side with Aurelio returning on the left, while I don’t know if Carragher is attacking enough to play at right back at Anfield, especially when Liverpool needs to score.

And make no mistake about it, Liverpool cannot come out looking for a 0-0. Nevermind that it’s foreign for Liverpool to play for 0-0 at Anfield on a European night, but there’s an excellent chance Arsenal will score tomorrow. They’ve extra incentive after seeing their title hopes suffer another setback on Saturday (although United’s draw has kept them in it for another week), but Liverpool should be more than aware that Arsenal has the potential to score at any time in any venue.

Given the way Arsenal bossed the midfield last Wednesday, it’s notable that both Fabregas and Flamini played the full 90 in the last two matches. Both appeared to tire in the second half on Saturday, and with the match at Anfield, Liverpool will look to increase the amount of possession, keep Arsenal from playing their style of football, and take the game to the opposition. Fatigue in Arsenal’s midfield can only help, while both Alonso and Mascherano are recharged, having missed out on the league meeting (while Gerrard played less than half an hour coming on as a sub).

On the injury front, Pennant will miss out after picking up a hamstring injury on Saturday, while Agger and Kewell are long-term absentees. For Arsenal, both van Persie and Diaby are back in the squad, but Rosicky’s been ruled out for the rest of the season. Gerrard, Carragher, and Aurelio would miss the next match if they pick up a yellow card, while the same applies for Adebayor, Clichy, Denilson, Eboue and Hleb on Arsenal.

Liverpool have an advantage thanks to the away goal, but it’s truly a slim advantage. Were the match to end 1-1, for the fourth time this season, the tie would be decided on penalties. Arsenal definitely have the potential to score at Anfield, European night or not. Like Liverpool, the Champions League is their best hope for a trophy this season, and they’ll assuredly play like it, especially after enduring two draws against Liverpool at their ground.

But Liverpool’s been in this position before. There’s a reason why Anfield is such a daunting venue in the Champions League, and few teams are as good as Liverpool in Europe when backs are against the wall.

Let’s see why again.

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