Apr 082008

After the first match, both sides knew there would always be a second leg to retrieve the situation. The second was an increasingly meaningless league match with both clubs in a stable position but going nowhere.

This, however, is completely different. One of Arsenal or Liverpool’s seasons will be as good as over after tonight, with nothing but a bit of league pride to play for. Let’s make sure it isn’t us.

There are a couple of selection dilemmas. While Sagna’s continued absence means that the back five should remain as Almunia, Clichy, Gallas, Senderos and Toure, it is ahead of them that Wenger finds himself in a quandary. Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb must start, but that leaves one or two wide positions, depending on whether Van Persie partners Adebayor up front or if Hleb sits in the centre of a 4-5-1.

On form, one of those positions should go to Walcott, but ironically, he is the least likely of the possibilities to start. Diaby, fresh from his domestic suspension, isn’t going through the same tiring leg syndrome of some of his teammates, and Wenger seems to like playing Eboue as a wide player in a five man midfield.

Having said that, Eboue played ninety minutes at the weekend, which is unusual for him, and may suggest he will be benched tonight. But then Walcott played the full match too, so can anything be read into that?

Here’s the front six I’d like to see:

Hleb, Flamini, Cesc, Walcott, Van Persie, Adebayor

And here’s the one I think we’ll see:

Diaby, Flamini, Cesc, Hleb, Eboue, Adebayor

Liverpool will play tonight cautiously, even though they’re at home, and we need to capitalise on that, attacking them early. A fourth 1-1 of the season would suit the home side more than us – their legs are fresher and they could probably cope with extra time.

Liverpool are vulnerable from set pieces, although they could make a case for the same being true of our defence. There is just too much attacking talent and slightly suspect defence for this one to end goalless.

Spirit of the San Siro, please.

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