Friday, March 14, 2008

Champions League: Anyone But The English, Declares Liverpool's Alvaro Arbeloa Ahead Of Draw

Alvaro Arbeloa is keeping his fingers crossed Liverpool avoid being paired against a rival English team in today’s draw for the Champions League quarter-finals.

For the first time, four clubs from one country have reached the last eight of the competition after Rafael Benitez’s side this week joined fellow Barclays Premier League sides Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in progressing beyond the last 16.

In making the 2005 and 2007 finals, Liverpool knocked out Chelsea in the semi-finals, but Arbeloa would prefer not to be drawn against a fellow Premier League outfit.

“Schalke and Fenerbahce are my favourites for us to draw in the following round.

“I would also be happy to draw Roma. What is true is that we want to avoid any English team,” said the Spaniard, who would also ideally like to stay away from La Liga’s giants Barcelona, who they beat in last season’s second knock-out round on away goals.

With those two final appearances in the last three seasons and five European Cup wins in their history – the same amount as every other English side has managed between them – Liverpool are proven competitors on the continental stage.

However, Arbeloa is under no illusions just how tough it will be to get through to May’s final in Moscow.

“We are playing quite well in the Champions League, but to get to the final is going to be really difficult,” he added.

“The Champions League is very competitive and there are difficult teams.”

Until recently, Liverpool have not been as convincing in domestic competition, culminating with their FA Cup exit at home to Coca-Cola Championship side Barnsley last month.

Since then, however, a run of six straight wins has seen them reclaim fourth place and close the gap on leaders Arsenal to 10 points.

And Arbeloa believes the storm has been weathered for now.

“It has been difficult,” he said.

“A critical moment has passed. Fortunately the atmosphere has calmed down and were going through a good spell. The owners of the club have already said that they want Benitez to continue at Liverpool for many years and the manager has also stressed that his intention is to continue leading the team.”

Regarding his own future, the 25-year-old Arbeloa insists he is enjoying life at Liverpool and is hoping to remain at the club for many seasons to come.

“At the start, it took me a while to adapt to English life,” said the full-back, who joined from Spanish outfit Deportivo La Coruna just over a year ago.

“With respect to the Premier League, I also had to work quite hard because the style and rhythm is different to the Spanish league.

“Moreover, to arrive in the winter transfer market also makes things a little more complicated.

“Now I am very well settled in the team and enjoying it at Liverpool.

“You never know where you will end up as a player, but right now I am very happy in my team and I want to continue here for a long time.”

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