Thursday, October 25, 2007

After European Loss, Liverpool Faces Inform Arsenal In Premier League

Liverpool has little time to recover from a devastating Champions League defeat, going straight into a Premier League showdown against an Arsenal side in its best run of form in years.

The two play at Anfield on Sunday after a contrasting week in Europe. Liverpool lost at Besiktas 2-1 on Wednesday and has only a point after three Champions League games.

Arsenal beat Slavia Prague 7-0 on Tuesday to equal the best-ever scoreline in the Champions League and keep a perfect record in Europe after three games.

The Gunners have won their last 12 games in all competitions and are unbeaten in the Premier League.

Even in 2003-04, when Arsenal went through the entire league season unbeaten, the Gunners' best sequence was 10 straight wins in all competitions.

Arsenal leads the Premier League with 25 points, followed by Manchester United with 23, Manchester City with 22 and Liverpool with 19. Arsenal has a game in hand on the two Manchester sides.

Liverpool hasn't lost in the league yet either, but any boost from beating crosstown rival Everton 2-1 last Saturday may have gone with the loss in Turkey.

"It was down as much to bad luck as anything else,'' Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said.”Everything we did could not make up for missing so many chances.

"But if we keep playing like we did here, we will win matches because we will certainly score more next time around if we play like that.''

Arsenal's players were clearly enjoying themselves as they demolished Slavia Prague, and the game brought two goals from Theo Walcott in his first start.

"Theo has proved we can believe it everyone in our squad,'' said Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

The only blemish to Arsenal's week was the attack by benched goalkeeper Jens Lehmann on manager Arsene Wenger.

The 37-year-old German international has not played for Arsenal since making a mistake against Blackburn in the Premier League on Aug. 19, although he has since recovered from an elbow injury.

He told German television on Tuesday that Wenger was humiliating him by leaving him out of the team and criticizing Manuel Almunia, who has been starting in his place.

Hicks Backing Benitez

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks has given his support to manager Rafa Benitez following The Reds' disappointing UEFA Champions League campaign.

Wednesday's surprise 2-1 defeat to Besiktas means the Merseysiders are likely to need to win all three of their remaining group games to qualify for the knock-out stage.

Although Liverpool are unbeaten in The Premier League this season, Benitez's rotation policy has also come under renewed criticism - including Steven Gerrard's substitution in the Merseyside derby.

However, Hicks says the Spaniard's record in Europe speaks for itself and that he has no problem with the former Valencia man's policy of chopping and changing his squad.

"We back Rafa. He's the right manager. Rafa's rotation has been his policy for three years," the American businessman told Sky Sports News.

"Rafa's ability to coach and manage in the Champions League should be unquestioned.

"We had a disappointing loss because we got outplayed by the Turks.

"I think we have our work cut out, but yeah we can qualify. We have to win the next three games."

Liverpool Boss Rafael Benitez Believes His Reds Squad Still Can Qualify Despite Their 2-1 Loss To Besiktas In Champions League

Despite suffering a defeat at the hands of Besiktas, which resulted in the Reds sinking to the bottom of the Champions League Group A table, Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has full confidence that his side they will reach the latter stages of the Champions League.

Presently the Anfield side have just one point after their 2-1 defeat and now will have to win their remaining three games in order to qualify.

"If we play like we did against Besiktas, we can win the final matches," said Liverpool boss Benitez.

"The players worked hard and you cannot blame them. The fans will be positive we can do it after seeing the game."

Liverpool, who are still unbeaten in the Premier League, went down by an own-goal when defender Sami Hyypia deflected Serdar Ozkan's shot into his own net.

Bobo went on to increase the score in the second half firing home the ball from close range.

Reds skipper Steven Gerrard got one goal to the credit of his side through a brilliant header as Liverpool pushed hard in the latter stages of the match.

Benitez added: "We had a lot of shots on target and shots off target. We controlled almost everything but made a big mistake in the first half."

Gerrard believes his manager is right and feels the Reds can still qualify from the group.

"We are pleased with how we played but disappointed with the result. We need to keep going and win the final three games and see what happens," he said.

"We need to take the positives and learn from our mistakes. We are capable of winning our final three games."

"It is the worst possible result. We had a mountain to climb but we have got an even bigger one to climb now.

"Mistakes happen as a result of misunderstandings but they put us under pressure."