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Friday, 2 March 2012

Resurgent Liverpool, Arsenal go head to head

London: A week after Liverpool and Arsenal raised hopes of a strong finish to the Premier League season with crucial wins, the pair go head to head at Anfield in a match critical to each team's chances of making the top four.

While Liverpool ended its six-year wait for a trophy with a shootout win in the League Cup final, Arsenal recovered a two-goal deficit to beat local rival Tottenham 5-2.

Fans of both clubs have renewed hope of clinching qualification for the Champions League, but defeat for either on Saturday could see just as swift a turnaround in mood.

"What the win does is makes you more confident and it gives you an incentive to go on and try and win and play in more finals," Liverpool winger Stewart Downing said. "And we are still going for a Champions League place with fourth position. There is a lot to play for and hopefully we can carry on doing well."

Leader Manchester City, which hosts Bolton on Saturday, and second-place Manchester United are out of sight, but third-place Tottenham is just seven points ahead of Arsenal after last weekend's north London derby.

If Spurs lose to visiting United on Sunday, that gap could be as small as four points.

Liverpool is back in seventh place but is only seven points behind Arsenal with a game in hand.

Liverpool could be without captain Steven Gerrard after the midfielder limped off in the first half of England's 3-2 friendly defeat against the Netherlands on Wednesday. Defender Daniel Agger is also set to miss the match after cracking a rib in the League Cup final.

"He's got a fractured rib, so maybe it will be a few weeks," manager Kenny Dalglish said.

United and Tottenham will both have to cope without key players at White Hart Lane, where United has not lost since a meaningless end-of-season fixture in 2001.

United is already without injured captain Nemanja Vidic until the end of the season and could miss defender Chris Smalling, who was carried off in the second half of England's match after a clash of heads with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Spurs could call upon Sandro to fill the gap in midfield caused by the suspension of Scott Parker for his late red card against Arsenal.

Spurs look vulnerable to a late charge by Arsenal, Liverpool or Chelsea after only a third loss in 24 matches.

"Arsenal and Chelsea are strong teams and we haven't finished above them for a long time, but this is our best chance, so we have to make sure we pick ourselves up and be ready for the next game," Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "We've a tough run, United, Everton away, Chelsea away so we have to make sure we're ready. It will be a big game at home to United.

"We are still seven points clear and if we can make that third place it will be a great season for us."

Also Sunday, Sunderland is at local rival Newcastle and Wolverhampton Wanderers goes to Fulham. Saturday's other games are: Blackburn vs. Aston Villa, Queens Park Rangers vs. Everton, Stoke vs. Norwich, West Bromwich Albion vs. Chelsea, and Wigan vs. Swansea.

League Championship leader Southampton is at Leeds on Saturday, while West Ham is at Cardiff on Sunday.


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