Well, that wasn’t a bad way to prepare ourselves mentally for a three round bout against Liverpool. Losing our second game in a row and not winning in six would have been unthinkable, but as it is we’ve come from two nil down to win three two with ten players, and the side will now be thoroughly pumped up. And with Liverpool coming off the back of a Merseyside derby victory, this should be a good tie. Talking about the Chelsea game, I had said that there was ‘no defensive solidarity, and the "damn you, must win at all costs" attitude from the first half of the season just wasn’t apparent.’ The same accusations were levelled at the side at half time on Saturday, but we actually saw a response this time after watching the same players muddle their way to four draws and a loss after being top of the league by five points. This is now the most important game of the season so far, the league is gone, the Champions League is all that remains. We’ve seen what this side is capable of doing in Europe, this season and in 2006, and we’re going to need to put in some performances similar to that which we saw in Milan, and on the way to the final two years ago, if we’re to lift this trophy for the first time.
I was a bit pissed off when we drew Liverpool, as they seem to do unfathomably well in this competition every season despite being terrible in the league. They’ve knocked Chelsea out in two of the last three campaigns, they beat Barcelona last season, and they’re looking to get to a third final in four seasons. Liverpool have won eight of their last nine matches in the league, and will be strengthened by the return of Mascherano. We need a victory in this match, having to go to Anfield needing a win in European competition is never a good situation to be in. Saying that, going to the San Siro needing a result was apparently an impossible task, and that didn’t turn out too bad. I definitely think we’re capable, but it’ll need another Milan-esque performance. I think the players sights are firmly set on this prize now, and so will the Liverpool players now that fourth place is essentially sewn up. Whatever happens, the next four games are going to be memorable one way or another, let’s kick it off with a win and get the mental advantage going into the other games.
We’ve beaten Liverpool in their last four visits here, and in all competitions at home under Wenger, we’ve won six, drawn three and lost two. They last beat us at home more than eight years ago. In all competitions, home and away, under Arsene, we’ve won eleven, drawn five and lost nine. Between Arsene and Benitez, we’ve won five, drawn one and lost three. Since the 2001 FA Cup final, we’ve knocked Liverpool out every time we’ve drawn them in cup competition. Let’s hope that continues.
Sagna will miss all three games against Liverpool, as will Rosicky, probably. Other than that everyone’s available. I think we’ll probably go with Toure at right back again as it allows for the strongest back four we have available, Adebayor will come back into the side, the only selection issue is which of Diaby, Eboue and Walcott start. I’ll guess Eboue, I’d hope Walcott.
Subs: Lehmann, Djourou, Hoyte, Gilberto, Diaby, Walcott, Bendtner.
They have no injury problems, they’ll be at full strength and their team selection will be fairly close to the line ups against Everton and United.