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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

UCL Preview - 1st Clash: Arsenal Vs Liverpool @ The Emirates



Striker Emmanuel Adebayor is set to start after being rested for Saturday's game at Bolton. Midfielder Abou Diaby is available because his suspension after being sent off in that match does not apply to European football.

Last Starting XI (v Bolton): Arsenal: Almunia, Toure, Senderos (Walcott 59), Gallas, Clichy, Hleb, Flamini, Fabregas, Diaby, Bendtner (Adebayor 60), Van Persie (Justin Hoyte 90). Subs Not Used: Lehmann, Eboue.

Squad: Arsenal (from): Almunia, Eboue, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Hleb, Flamini, Fabregas, Walcott, van Persie, Adebayor, Lehmann, Diaby, Bendtner, Hoyte, Senderos, Gilberto, Denilson.


Midfielder Javier Mascherano is likely to return to the side after serving a one-game suspension. Defenders Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Aurelio are also back in the squad after recovering from injuries.

Last Starting XI (v Everton): Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Hyypia, Skrtel, Riise, Lucas, Gerrard (Crouch 90), Alonso, Babel (Benayoun 82), Torres (Pennant 89), Kuyt. Subs Not Used: Itandje, Finnan.

Squad: Liverpool (from) Reina, Arbeloa, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Skrtel, Riise, Aurelio, Babel, Benayoun, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt, Voronin, Crouch, Torres, Pennant, Lucas, Itandje.


Arsenal - Fabregas, Van Persie, Adebayor

lWhile Cesc Fabregas will provide the Gunners' main creative impetus, and his midfield battle with Javier Mascherano will probably be pivotal, it will be goals that decide the tie, and Arsenal will be looking to Dutchman Robin van Persie, a player with the big game temperament, to deliver after returning to full fitness from the knee injury sustained while on international duty with Holland last October. Van Persie has scored eight goals despite restricted appearances, and now has 42 in his Arsenal career. Emmanuel Adebayor, likely to partner him in attack against Liverpool, has 39 to his credit - 23 of them scored this season.

Liverpool - Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard

It has to be Fernando Torres at the moment, the striker who is in electric form and whose partnership with midfielder Steven Gerrard has proved dazzlingly productive in recent weeks. Torres now has 28 goals to his account this season, and Gerrard 19, with the pair of them scoring nine times in Europe. Torres has been praised from all quarters this week, deservedly so, and is flourishing as the main striker in Benitez's more settled side. His pace could trouble the Arsenal defence, and the Spaniard will undoubtedly provide the main goal threat to the Gunners.


The next seven days promise to produce three epic battles between two of English football's genuine heavyweights, and this first one, while not decisive, will undoubtedly set the tone. Arsenal have home advantage and will be buoyed by Saturday's comeback win. But Liverpool are the European specialists, and have also struck a rich vein of form at the right time - their defeat at Old Trafford notwithstanding. It will probably be a tense, tight, cat-and-mouse affair, though Arsenal will be desperately trying to open the game up, Liverpool to close it down. It could go either way, but Liverpool under Benitez have yet to win on Arsenal turf, and the Gunners, having turned a psychological corner at Bolton, could go on and win this first leg.

Expert Prediction - Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool

My Prediction - Arsenal 1 - 1 Liverpool