Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Tuesday April 8 2008
A combination of poor form and bad luck means that Arsenal's season now depends on the outcome of this game.
If we lose then there will be nothing to play for, and it'll be yet another season that's viewed as a failure. If we win, then there's a chance this season can become a massive success.
The last two meetings between the teams have not been the most entertaining games witnessed at the Emirates, but both managers have expressed their intention to give it a go tonight. Wenger spoke of the need to play at a high tempo, while Benitez has vowed that his team will go for a win, and not play for a 0-0 draw.
Many people, including Kolo Toure believed that the first leg would be like a Premiership game, not a Champions League game. But they were wrong. Liverpool lined up just as they normally do in the Champions League, with the same tactics they deploy in teh Champions League. And they came away with a good result.
Arsenal know that a defeat or a 0-0 will spell the end of their Champions League campaign. 1-1 isn't the end of the world, but you would fancy Liverpool in extra time or penalties.
Liverpool may be famous for 'great European nights', but Arsenal haven't done too bad in the last couple of years. Real Madrid and Juventus were well beaten on our run to the final in 06, while AC Milan were given a footballing lesson over the two legs in the last round.
Wenger believes that his side can still complete an historic double and win both the Premiership and Champions League.
'I still believe we can finish as champions in the league but we need to win at United on Sunday,' said Wenger.
'I also believe we can win the Champions League. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think that.'
The Arsenal manager then went on to speak of what it will take to win at Anfield: 'We need a similar spirit to the one we showed at the San Siro.
'I believe we have to go into the game with the same positive attitude.
'I believe we can win anywhere in the world. We are not going to play the game to go to penalties, we will play it to win.
'There will be more urgency in this game and less observation. My wish is not to be patient. I want to score early goals.'
The last three sentances there are not something we're used to hearing from Wenger. Normally he'd emphasize the need to be patient in a big game. So is he trying to instill some fight and a bit of hunger into his players?
Rafa Benitez believes the Liverpool fans will have a big part to play. He hopes that Arsenal will be affected as Chelsea were there in the semi final as Chelsea were 3 years ago: 'You could feel the atmosphere against Chelsea in the semi-final and I expect that to be the same this time. Our fans can also hold the key.
'I saw Chelsea affected by the Kop, it was clear. Hopefully it will be the same again.
'When you have to face our fans for 90 minutes on top of you, then it is not easy for the majority of players.
Jermaine Pennant has joined Harry Kewell and Daniel Agger on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring injury at The Grove on Saturday.
However, Javier Mascherano returns to the midfield for Benitez's side.
The Liverpool gaffer has a decision to make up front too. Does he bring the talented Torres back into the team? Or does he stick with Crouch? A player that seems to do well against Arsenal. He's almost certain to put Torres back in there, but it's something for him to think about.
The firey Argentine was outstanding in the first leg. If it were not for him (and Bendtner's goal-line clearence), then the scorline coming into tonights match would look very different.
Some positive news for Arsenal fans! Robin Van Persie has been included in the 18-man squad for the Anfield trip.
The Dutchman was a doubt after suffering a thigh injury in the first leg.
Rosicky, Sagna and Eduardo are all missing still. Abou Diaby returnds as his suspension does not apply to European competition.
The electirc forward is likely to start on the bench, but he is making a name for himself as an impact player. He came on at half time in the last leg, and put Liverpool's defence under pressure straight away. Let's hope we see more of the same tonight.
Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt will take control of the second leg.
I'm afriad that Arsenal are on their way out. I'm going for 1-1 after 90 minutes, and Liverpool to win in extra time.
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Date:Tuesday April 8 2008
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|4. West Ham||16||8||4||4||8||28|
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