Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Saturday March 31 2007
After everything that has happened this season (reaching a cup final, making the second round of the champions League, beating Spu*s in a cup Semi Final), this game is the most important of them all.
If Arsenal are to show that they have made progress then they must get third place. We went out of the Champions League several rounds earlier than last season, although we did get to a cup final and we got a round further in the FA Cup.
Liverpool are sure to try and get at Arsenal, for that is the most effective way of avoiding defeat against them. Sissoko, Gerrard and Alonso will all be instructed to put some tough tackles in on the likes of Fabregas, Hleb and Rosicky.
Liverpool may be one of the 'big four' but they can, at times, play some really boring football. They do have flair players, Rafa just doesn't get the best out of them. Credit where it's due, he tried to attack when Arsenal played Liverpool in the Carling Cup - but he then had to sit and watch The Beast maul his side.
Arsenal on the other hand, are sure to go for the jugular, as they always do. The fact that 4 of Arsenal's strikers are missing through injury is unlikely to deter Le Boss from playing his usual flowing football.
Arsene Wenger takes a philosophical view of Arsenal's season: "You want to be as good as possible in every competition. But you judge the global reward by the way you play and compete in the championship.
"I agree that we were not good enough this year and I have to stand up and take responsibility for that.
"Our record overall is not bad. We have not had a bad defence and not a bad attack. But also we were not outstanding anywhere.
"We were superior, good, but not top, top in any department. We have been sometimes fantastic in attack, or with the best defence. But to win the league you need the team to be on top and that is what we did not have this season.
"Still you have to take a distance with these things aswell. If we had won a trophy - the Carling Cup - this season, it still would not have been a great success.
"And I feel you have more chance to win if you play good football. You always have to show your players the bigger picture. You cannot say my target is to play bad football because you will lose."
Le Boss also spoke of teh boost Adebayor's return will give the team: 'With the number of strikers we have out, his presence, physical ability and penetration power (need I insert an innuendo?) means it is good to have him back.
'We have been punished very hard with Adebayor so it is a relief to have him with us again.'
Rafa 'The Gaffer' hopes the fact that Arsenal have already beaten Liverpool twice at Anfield this season will motivate his players: 'I'm sure that our home defeats in the FA Cup and Carling Cup will be a motivation for the players, but one I hope will help in a positive way.
'We all remember what happened, but now we have a different game in a different competition and situation.
'Always when you play Arsenal you know it's a big game and important.
The Liverpool boss also hinted he could rest some key players: 'We know we have to think about using our whole squad because of the game against Eindhoven to come, but we also know we have to make sure we finish in the top four.'
Liverpool have two injuries ahead of the crucial clash at Anfield. Luis Garcia (cruciate ligament) and Harry Kewell (Ankle).
Peter Crouch is set to return after a few days in training.
The Liverpool skipper is always a threat. He has a talent so rare in English players today - the ability to lift his whole team up to the next level.
Diaby is likely to be the man tasked with keeping Gerrard quiet, and he'll need another game like the one he had in Cardiff last month to do so.
There's been mixed news coming out of The Grove in teh last few days. Gael Clichy and Manu Eboue are both fit and set to play after revocering from foot and knee injuries respectively.
The bad news is that Robin Van Persie is set to miss the rest of the season along with captain Thierry Henry and youngster Theo Walcott.
The biggest blow is that Gilberto Silva is out after suffering a knock to his hip during the international break. Aliadiere will also miss the game after picking up a knock in training.
Last time Arsenal were at Anfield Baptista scored 4 goals and missed a penalty! How could he NOT be my player to watch?
Liverpool will not come at Arsenal. they'll likely play a 4-5-1 with Sissoko and Alonso sitting deep while Gerrard runs around doing what he does best - everything. Kuyt will look to apply as much pressure as possible to Arsenal's back-line, hoping he can force a mistake.
Arsenal will also line up with a 4-5-1 - but a very different mentality. Hleb and Rosicky will come inside at every oppertunity, with Clichy and Eboue playing as wing-backs to offer width. Fabregas will be up to his usual tricks, leaving the majority of the ugly work to Diaby.
Steve Bennet will referee Saturday's fixture. The Kent-born official has issued 79 cards (75 yellow, 4 red) in his 25 games this season, an average of 3.43 cards per game.
Sorry guys and girls, Mr pessimistic says Liverpool will win. Liverpool will not play Arsenal at their own game this time, Rafa is no fool and will have learned from his mistakes. 1-0, Kuyt.
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Date:Saturday March 31 2007
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