Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Wednesday April 2 2008
Arsenal have worked hard and played well all season. We've sat atop of the Premiership tree for much of the current campaign, and have lost just one match in Europe this season. But Arsenal's season will be defined over the next few weeks as a trip to Old Trafford in the Premiership is preceeded by a trio of games against Liverpool in the Premiership and Champions League.
It would be terribly harsh on Arsenal if their season was to fall apart in the space of two short weeks. A Champions League exit and anything but six points from six against United and Liverpool would spell the end of any hopes of silverware this season.
Tonight's match will be anything but easy. Arsenal's form has been shocking to say the least, at least until that extraordinary comeback against Bolton on Saturday.
Liverpool's has been pretty good of late. Torres has been scoring plenty of goals. Gerrard too has found some form, while Babel's ionfluence seems to be growing with each game at the moment. One positive for Arsenal is that they fell apart in their last big game. A trip to Old Trafford is never easy, but Liverpool just didn't turn up. Torres did nothing, Gerrard was annonymous and Mascherano's school-boy behaviour saw him served with his marching orders.
As interesting as the battle on the pitch will be the clash of two fantastic footballing brains. Arsene Wenger is known the world over for his desire of attacking, flowing, expressive football. His teams are known for their technical and passing ability.
Rafa Benitez has made his name at Liverpool for different reasons. His teams are solid at the back, with a powerful striker who can get on the end of long balls.
Both teams have things to consider. Liverpool know that Arsenal will probably score in both legs. So do they go for it in the first leg? Or keep it tight and hope they score more than we do at Anfield? I think they'll take a caustious approach in the first leg, and just look to shut Arsenal out.
Arsenal also need to consider what's more important. To score or not conceed in the first leg? I think that Arsene will send his team out with the same instructions he normally does 'play with freedom, play with heart.'
One thing's for sure, it'll be an interesting game!
Kolo Toure was the player presented to the press for the usual pre-game confrence. He was asked if Saturday had helped 'restore confidence and belief in the team?' His reply was simple: 'Definantly. I think it was a really tight game. We Started really bad, but we came back with 10 men and I think that is going to be really important for the rest of the season.
'I think it's going to be like a Premiership game. We're used to playing them and we know their players,' he went on.
Arsenal will have Diaby, who's red card against Bolton does not count in Europe.
Three key players will be missing for Arsenal. Sagna, Rosicky and Eduardo are all injured.
I've just been sent the team too (thanks Tom).
Arsenal line-up: Almunia, Toure, Senderos, Gallas, Clichy, Eboue, Fabregas, Flamini, Hleb, Van Persie and Adebayor.
The Dutchman got the goal he needed on Saturday. That should give him the confidence to go on a good run. Hopefully starting tonight!
Liverpool have only Agger and Kewel missing for their trip to Arsenal. Not what we wanted to hear.
The lad has done better than anyone could have expected. He's scoring goals, making goals and generaly giving defences a hard time. He's got everything you could possibly want from a striker. Pace, power, a lethal finish, sharp passing and his movement is second to none.
I'm going to plump for a 1-1 draw. It'll be all Arsenal, but Liverpool will get a goal on the break, or from a corner. Torres and Van Persie to score.
Date:Wednesday April 2 2008
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