Over the course of seven days, Arsenal and Liverpool will face-off three times:
Wednesday at the Emirates for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals, Saturday again at the Emirates for an important Premier League match, and finally Tuesday at Anfield for the quarter-final second leg.
In Liverpool-Arsenal: The Series, Pt. 1, we examined what interesting aspects of these clubs that this series might reveal.
This article will look at factors that might affect the outcome of these three matches.
The Experience of the Squads
Both of these squads carry the strength of recently reaching the Champions League Final.
Ten of Liverpool's starters from last years Champions League Final squad are playing with the club this year, and eight played in the 2005 European victory in Istanbul. Six of Arsenal's starters remain from their 2006 Champions League final loss to Barca.
Those players from both squads who were there for their team's loss in the Finals will have a good perspective as the tournament enters the quarters.
Arsenal is a younger squad. This series will prove to be a stressful one for the players, especially if the first two matches split or are draws.
Obviously, Arsenal is seasoned in Europe. They proved that at San Siro. But the issue here is whether Liverpool's experience will prove to be an advantage in light of Arsenal's youth.
The Leadership of the Captains
Aside from their recent slump, Arsenal have faired quite nicely this season at home and abroad under first-year skipper William Gallas.
But bear in mind that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has lifted both the FA Cup and CL Cup, winning them both by leading his team to come from behind victories.
Of course, Gallas has won the EPL twice with Chelsea. Again, the question is not whether Gallas is experienced or a worthy captain, but whether Steven Gerrard's experience and leadership will trump his, and how much difference that will make in this series.
The Vibe of the Stadiums
This week, the Emirates will be buzzing. Playing two matches there will be an obvious advantage for the Gunners.
TV commentators affirm the uniqueness of Anfield every time night falls and the Reds take the pitch to face a European opponent.
While magical might be a strong word, even Rafa seems to understand its unusual aura.
"Playing the second game at home could be very positive for us because, always when we play at Anfield, it is an inspiration to us. When you play against a good team the small details can make the difference."
The Kop will be ready for their lads to come home. And I believe the third match will be the one that determines and defines the series.
Last year, Arsenal had Liverpool's number, beating them 3-0 (EPL) at the Emirates, 3-1 (FA Cup) and 6-3 (Carling), both at Anfield. Then the Gunners travelled again to Anfield, where Liverpool handed a Henry-less Arsenal a 4-1 defeat. The squads drew 1-1 earlier this season at Anfield.
Will the CL matches be determined by aggregate goals… or even a shoot-out?
For the three matches, I predict an aggregate of 5-5, with Liverpool advancing to the semis in the Champions League.
What do you think?
What will the aggregate goals be for the entire three match series?
Who will advance to the semi-finals?
I'd be interested to hear your predictions…
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