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Liverpool v Arsenal preview

21 Apr 2009 10:03:54

Liverpool v Arsenal preview

Liverpool welcome Arsenal to Anfield on Tuesday night as the hosts look to return to the top of the Premier League table. The Reds currently sit one point behind leaders and Manchester United, who host Portsmouth on Wednesday, and a draw would be enough to overtake the defending champions on goal difference. But Rafa Benitez will see victory as the perfect response to recent off-field sagas, while hopes of avoiding a European hangover will also be high in the first game since defeat to Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. Arsenal, though, have their own targets and the Champions League semi-finalists are eager to reinforce their hold on fourth place in the Premier League to guarantee they will have a spot in Europe's pedigree club competition next season. Faith Liverpool's mission will not be helped by the continued absence of captain Steven Gerrard, with the England star still sidelined with a groin injury. The 28-year-old missed the 4-4 second-leg draw with Chelsea, and was an unused substitute for the previous domestic victory over Blackburn, and will remain absent. Yossi Benayoun is therefore expected to play in a supporting role to Spain striker Fernando Torres, with Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano anchoring midfield. Benitez must also decide whether to maintain his faith in centre-back Martin Skrtel, who has looked a little out of sorts over recent weeks, or give Daniel Agger the opportunity to earn a new contract when partnering Jamie Carragher. Injury problems Arsenal's injury-hit season has suffered a further blow following the news that attacking duo Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie will be missing for the trip to Merseyside. Adebayor is carrying a hamstring complaint, while top scorer Van Persie has sustained a groin problem and will not be available for boss Arsene Wenger. First-choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia is also unavailable, but the Spaniard has announced he will be ready to return from his ankle injury against Middlesbrough at the weekend. Lukasz Fabianski has been standing in for Almunia and the Pole will bid to rebuild his reputation after failing to cover himself in glory in last weekend's FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea. Full-back Bacary Sagna has recovered from a virus and could feature, along with fit-again Croatia forward Eduardo, but defenders Gael Clichy (back), William Gallas (knee) and Johan Djourou (knee) are all out. Possible starting XIs Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Kuyt, Alonso, Mascherano, Riera, Benayoun, Torres. Arsenal: Fabianski, Gibbs, Toure, Silvestre, Sagna, Walcott, Fabregas, Diaby, Denilson, Arshavin, Bendtner.


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