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Arsenal feel the heat ahead of Liverpool clash

Latest update : 2008-04-08

After two consecutive home draws against Liverpool, Arsenal no longer look favourites ahead of tonight's second leg of the Champions League quarter-finals at Anfield, though coach Arsene Wenger is confident the Gunners can outdo the Reds.

Arsene Wenger is confident Arsenal can make it third time lucky against Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday when the two sides resume hostilities over a place in the last four in the Champions League.

With their quarter-final tie delicately balanced after a 1-1 draw in last week's first leg at the Emirates, Liverpool are most people's favourites to exploit their twin advantages of playing at home and their away goal to edge through to a meeting with either Chelsea or Fenerbahce.

But Wenger insists that his players have the mental resilience required to upset the Anfield faithful in what will be their third meeting with Liverpool in a week.

"We need to recover physically and mentally because the players gave everything in Saturday's league match (which also finished 1-1)," the Frenchman said. "But we have enough resources to qualify on Tuesday night."

With Arsenal's challenge in the Premier League having faltered, Wenger knows the club's season will be written off if their European campaign comes to an end on Tuesday.

But he refuses to dramatise the situation, insisting expectations were so low at the start of the season that it will be regarded as a success regardless of the outcome at Anfield.

"Of course it's a massive game, who would say that the quarter-final of the Champions League is not?," Wenger said. "It is a very important one for us and for them.

"But I don't know if it will decide our season --I don't like the big sentences. We will play our game on Tuesday night and try to win the game, and give absolutely everything, and after, anyway, our season has not been disastrous.

"People expected us to be between 10th and 12th in the Premier League so we are already beyond expectations."

Wenger may have to do without Dutch striker Robin van Persie, who lasted only the first-half of the first leg before a thigh muscle problem resulted in him being withdrawn.

But Arsenal's goalscorer in the first leg, Emmanuel Adebayor, appears to have shaken off an ankle knock and should be fresh after spending most of Saturday's league match on the bench.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez made eight changes for the league match so, in theory, should be able to name the same starting line-up that secured the draw in the first leg and be confident they will be fresh enough to cope should extra-time and penalties be required on Tuesday.

But the Spaniard believes that a moment of inspiration -- such as the run from skipper Steven Gerrard that produced Liverpool's equaliser at the Emirates -- is more likely to prove the decisive factor than any slight difference in the stamina levels of the two sides.

"You know always that the small things can be the difference," Benitez said.

"When you play against the top sides, you know a player can change the game, or there can be a mistake in a free-kick, in a one-versus-one situation.

"At the end, the difference between the draws and the wins, or if you lose are the smaller things and the influence of the top-class players."

Liverpool beat Chelsea on penalties in last year's semi-final and another 1-1 draw would result in this tie being decided by spot-kicks.

If that scenario materialises, Benitez believes he has enough players with the mentality required to see his side through.

"Sometimes it is more the heart than the quality of the players," he said. "We will have some good players taking penalties, so I do not think we will practise too much. You know which players will be good when they are called from the halfway line. It is not just quality. It is important to be calm and to know what to do.

"When you talk about top-class players, with quality and experience in these situations. Sometimes they can be really good at 18, sometimes at 31 a player is not cool on penalties, so it depends on each one.

"I will not be thinking about penalties. We will be trying to use our experience during the game and not go to penalties."

Date created : 2008-04-08

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