Hansen & Barnes On Liverpool v Arsenal
John Barnes and Alan Hansen, pundits for the New Football Pools on tonight's game between Liverpool and Arsenal.
John Barnes says:
'The Liverpool v Arsenal game promises to be an exciting clash but whether it`s a must win game I`m not so sure. This is Liverpool`s hardest remaining game on paper and Rafa Benitez`s side are more than capable of winning all their remaining games, so a draw would not be the end of the world. Obviously a lot depends on Manchester United but to win this game would keep the pressure on Sir Alex`s side and means they won`t be allowed any breathing space.
I honestly think Liverpool will win the game with Arsenal likely to be a little weary mentally and physically after the late heartbreak of semi-final defeat to Chelsea only 3 days ago. Rafa and his side will have had a few extra days rest which could prove a factor but I`m sure they`d swap the rest to still be in the Champions League. Also the Gunners will be missing a few players both in attack and defence so will be under-strength as a result.
If you throw in the fact that Arsene Wenger has a two-legged Champions League semi-final with Manchester United to prepare for then he may want to make sure his big stars are fully fit and ready for that one. After all, a top 4 place looks pretty much assured so the Champions League must be Arsenal`s priority. However, Arsene will also want to maintain his young side`s momentum of 18-matches unbeaten in the Premier League ahead of that tie as two defeats on the trot could seriously dent their confidence. It`s hard to chop and change a side without losing rhythm so it`s a difficult one to foresee what Arsene will do team-wise.
Arsenal are always a tough team to beat but a win tonight for Liverpool would maintain the pressure on a weary looking United side prior to their home match on Wednesday night against Portsmouth.'
Alan Hansen says that tonight is a 'must win' for Liverpool if they want to put pressure on Manchester United adding:
'In fact, this game is no different to any of Liverpool`s remaining games, they are all must win matches. Every game has the same significance as all have 3 points up for grabs. If Rafa Benitez`s side don`t win then United will gain renewed confidence going into their match with Portsmouth on Wednesday. Therefore, Liverpool need to take the points to put a seed of doubt into the minds of the United players entering a match you`d expect Sir Alex`s team to win.
Arsenal will be a tough test; after all, they`re unbeaten in their last 18 league games. However, after being knocked out of the cup at the weekend and with one eye on their Champions League semi this may be a good time to play them. You just don`t know what will happen in this game. It`s a tricky one for Arsene Wenger as he`ll want to maintain his team`s momentum but will also try to strike a balance between resting those that need it but not at the expense of his young side`s confidence.
Liverpool`s extra few days rest may prove a factor in the result of this game as will the home side`s form at Anfield in recent weeks. Rafa`s side just need to repeat what they`ve been doing in front of the Kop as they`ve done exceptionally well in the last 5 or 6 games matches apart from the Chelsea Champions League defeat.
I would expect a high-tempo entertaining game but with Liverpool needing the win more than the Gunners, I would expect Rafa`s team to grab all 3 points and return to the top of the Premier League. Then it`s up to Manchester United to respond to the challenge. Game on!'
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