Liverpool in search of Arsenal revival

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Liverpool started this season with hopes of winning their first English title since 1990; they face Arsenal on Sunday desperate to maintain their bid for a top

Updated: December 11, 2009 17:48 IST
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Liverpool started this season with hopes of winning their first English title since 1990; they face Arsenal on Sunday desperate to maintain their bid for a top four finish.

Ending the season among the English Premier League's leading quartet will guarantee Liverpool Champions League football next season.

This term's Champions League efforts have been dismal by the five-times European Cup winners' own standards.

Liverpool had already seen their hopes of advancing to the knockout stages disappear before Wednesday's dispiriting 2-1 loss to Fiorentina.

The Reds are seventh in the Premier League, 12 points behind leaders Chelsea, and must now take on third-placed Arsenal, one of their regular 'Big Four' rivals.

"Without a doubt that (finishing in the top four) has to be the main aim this season," said Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.

"It's obviously important for the club, and having played in the Champions League for such a long time, it's very important.

"We'll be right up for the Arsenal game on Sunday. If we can get three points there and take that into the Wigan game, we can turn a corner."

Liverpool will at least be bolstered by the return of star striker Fernando Torres, who came on as a second-half substitute against Fiorentina after a month out injured.

"Torres's return is massive for me, massive for everyone," Gerrard insisted.

"He's the main man, he's our top scorer and we need him back firing.

"If that happens I'm sure we'll move back up the league and get in the top four places."

Arsenal, who've lost two of their last three Premier League matches, are likely to deploy a more familiar looking side at Anfield after manager Arsene Wenger fielded a largely inexperienced line-up for this week's 'dead' Champions League loss away to Greek club Olympiakos.

Saturday sees the rest of the Premier League in action with champions Manchester United, now just two points behind leaders Chelsea, at home to fifth-placed Aston Villa.

Injuries mean England midfielder Michael Carrick is likely to start again as a centre-back but, after three straight wins, the player said confidence at Old Trafford was overcoming United's fitness problems.

"We won't take our foot off the pedal now," Carrick insisted.

Chelsea, looking to return to winning ways after last weekend's loss to Manchester City, will be without injured midfielder Michael Essien (hamstring) for the visit of an Everton side who are three points above the drop zone and have won just once in their last nine league games.

Portsmouth, who on Thursday denied reports they were about to enter administration, will climb off the bottom if they win away to Sunderland and fellow strugglers Bolton are beaten by Manchester City.

Wolves, also in the bottom three, are away to high-flyers Tottenham while West Ham, who are only a point clear of the relegation zone, travel to Birmingham City.

All eyes in Stoke's early kick-off match against Wigan are set to be on James Beattie after the striker was involved in an alleged dressing-room bust-up with manager Tony Pulis last weekend.

In other matches, Hull City manager Phil Brown is up against his mentor Sam Allardyce, back from heart surgery, as the Tigers take on Blackburn, while Fulham will try to bolster their fine home record when Burnley, who've struggled away from Turf Moor this term, come to west London.

Fixtures (1500GMT kick-off unless stated)


Birmingham v West Ham, Bolton v Manchester City, Burnley v Fulham, Chelsea v Everton, Hull v Blackburn, Manchester United v Aston Villa (1730GMT), Stoke v Wigan (1245GMT), Sunderland v Portsmouth, Tottenham v Wolves


Liverpool v Arsenal (1600GMT)

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