A strong European Champions League campaign for the Gunners, but a harder one for Liverpool. With Arsenal winning a whopping 7-0 against a Czech Republic side, Liverpool lost 2-1 away to Turkish side Besiktas J.K. , one can only assume the likely outcome of the clash between these two teams this Sunday.
We scouted on the other side, to get a view of what our fellow opposition are thinking ahead of this game. RC8 did the honours of creating the questions at the popular www.redandwhitekop.com forums.
What are your expectations for this season?
Top 4 minimum requirement. To be in with a shout of the title going in to the last few games. Not saying I expect us to win it, that would be foolish and arrogant, but to actually challenge this year. If we don’t win the title a cup of some sort would be nice! (Plenty of silverware in the Anfield trophy cabinet, but always room for more!!) – The Jackal
We’d all just love to be there beyond Christmas. Some feel we should win it given our potential, but at the end of the day, I don’t think we’re as good as Chelsea or Manchester United and as for you, well, I don’t know what to expect. As for other cups: they’re all a bonus. The general consensus is the league is our main priority this season. – Garstonite
Expectations for the season are to improve our away record. It’s Rafa’s only weakness on his Liverpool CV at the moment, and if he can improve that this season then we’ll be on our way. I doubt my throat could stand another mediocre season away from home, but with four wins and a draw already we look like we are on our way – we only won eight away games all last season. – Voltaire
To mount a realistic title challenge. And then to win it next year. By challenge I mean being in the mix when we play yourselves, Man U and Everton one after the other towards the end of the season. It would be nice if we could win it, but still think we are a little short. Also Arsenal have proved to be a greater threat than many thought which is influencing the title battle early on. Fans / pundits in general had you down as a team that might slip out the top 4. Well and truly proved wrong. But I think both of us would be happy if our teams made a fist of it as opposed to being out of it by around about now! – Tiger Tony
My expectations are that we should be capable of putting in a title challenge. This is the first season that you could really argue Rafa has the exact squad that he wants. No matter how good a group of players are I never think it’s fair to expect to win the league. Too much luck is involved along the way. But a challenge is not unreasonable with the players we have and I think we’re on the path to doing that. – -HH-
A serious title challenge, we have possibly and probably our best squad since RB took the reigns. Europe is always important to Liverpool but even Rafa has admitted the league is the club’s priority this season, it’s been too long. – Phil M
I still think we’ll win the league. You’ve had a good start yourself but I think it could be a year too early for your lot. You’ve got the African Nations which is going to hurt you through the middle of the campaign and the injury to van Persie is a big miss for you. Would expect us to go to Wembley too for one of the cups, but you never know which one with Liverpool!
Champs League is a difficult one, if we get through the group stage there’s no reason why we can’t go all the way, but it’s impossible to predict what is going to happen in Europe cause there is so many good sides. – rodderzzz
Where do you think you will finish (in the league) come May?
I think it’s going to be a lot closer this year than in recent seasons so it’s really hard to predict. It’s already pretty tight at the top with no one really running away with it. You lot have had a good start but have a few tough games coming up, Chelsea have had a relatively poor start, but you can’t discount them. The Mancs are always dangerous. And of course we’re in the mix too – despite what some of the doom and gloom merchants on here would have you believe!!
I think a big factor this year will be how much the teams beneath the top four have improved this season – you look at the likes of Man City, Blackburn and Pompey, and they are doing pretty well, then you have Villa, Newcastle, West Ham etc.. – there really are no ‘easy’ games (well, except perhaps Derby at home).
So, impossible to predict, but I’ll speak from the heart and say 1st!!! – The Jackal
I’d consider 2nd a good achievement and an obvious improvement on last year’s domestic display, but I think we’ll finish third again. Hopefully significantly closer in terms of points. – Garstonite
A close third, dependant upon how Chelsea react to adversity – could even be second dependant on our performances against yourselves, Man U and Chelsea. To be honest , it’s not position I’m worried about but how many points away from top spot. Single figures deficit and we’ll be right on track for next season. Can see your wagon collapsing around Christmas, and losing Touré in January will be a big blow to your defence. Senderos is no replacement, he reminds me of a white Zak Knight. – Voltaire
2nd. I hope it isn’t Man U above us. Anyone else is fine to win it. – Tiger Tony
I think either 2nd or 3rd. That said, a lot will depend on how we do against the Mancs in particular – they took all 6 points off us last season in spite of the fact we played them off the park at Anfield. This time round I’d like to see us at least take the points off them at Anfield and at least show some desire over at their place – if we can do that and maybe take a point from them there then who knows? I think Arsenal have had a fantastic start but I do expect it to even out. Away games are your downfall and you’ve only had 3 so far. – -HH-
Or to phrase the question differently, can we finish ahead of Chelsea, Utd and Arsenal, okay, while trying not to sound silly, we’ve made a decent start, not as good as the gunners but we’re unbeaten and still within touch of the top we can and will play so much better than we have over the past 5 games, the return of messrs Alonso, Agger and hopefully Kewell can make a big difference and hopefully Dirk Kuyt’s derby brace will get him going in the goalscoring department. I think we have what it takes to win it if we do not suffer any more serious injuries. – Phil M
Think we’ll win it. Struggled for form recently and remained unbeaten. Big game on Sunday, if we beat you after the derby I fancy us to go on one of our 11-12 games winning streak that Benitez seems to send us on every year. – rodderzzz
If Rafa fails to mount decent title challenge this season, would you like to see the back of him?
No. I think he has done a fantastic job since coming here. He is one of the best managers in the world. However, if we finish really far off the pace with no obvious mitigating factors (e.g. half the 1st team squad doing a Harry Kewell for the rest of the season) then questions will certainly be asked… – The Jackal
No, and anyone that says otherwise is an idiot. We scraped into the Champions League the season before he arrived and since then have made great strides. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but it seems he is being punished for his immediate success in Europe; people now expect, rather than hope. Anyway, I suspect we will, so the matter should hopefully be irrelevant. – Garstonite
No – Rafa is here to stay. Ignore the hype, the hard core at cast iron behind the man. I have no doubt he will bring more major trophies to Anfield. – Voltaire
No, but he has to win it next year. 5 year plan and all that. The CL win in 2005 has bought him time, but thats fair enough, and I think he will win it next season. If a constructive challenge does not come about then expect many to get on his back, especially the non match going internet moaners. – Tiger Tony
I wouldn’t personally, I think he deserves another season. Personally I think it’ll end up a moot point as we will mount a title challenge this year but Rafa deserves respect for what he’s achieved so far and if he could bring us another player of Torres’ calibre next summer then there’s no reason we couldn’t challenge next season. I don’t feel he’s taken us as far as he can, let’s put it that way. – -HH-
Absolutely not! Any LFC fan who says otherwise is a fool. I feel the same as any Gunners fan would if asked the same about Arsène Wenger. The club is moving forward, two European Cup finals in three seasons was an incredible achievement, sure he puzzles us all at times and even frustrates with some of his decisions but he has shown enough in his time here to suggest that he is a talented manager and I think we are extremely lucky to have him at the helm. – Phil M
Absolutely ridiculous. Media love to get on his back and try to unsettle the ship. You ask any regular match going red that question and you’ll get the same answer every time. No chance. – rodderzzz
How far do you think you will get in Europe?
UEFA Cup winners?!?! Seriously – we might not even get out of the group the way things have started.. will have more of an idea after Wednesday – I’d say we probably need back to back wins against Besiktas to qualify.. – The Jackal
Nothing Benitez has done suggests we can go far in both Europe and in the league yet; our best finish under him we got knocked out by Benfica in the last 16. This squad is undoubtedly his best though, so we’ll see. After our poor start in the group, I just want us to progress into the knock-out stages before I start contemplating anything beyond. But, as we – meaning Liverpool and Arsenal – have shown, anything can happen with good defensive discipline, good tactics and that bit of luck. – Garstonite
Who can tell, we have the pedigree – but as we found out the season before last every team is but a spectacular goal away from an exit. Cup runs depend upon luck as much as teamwork – it’s so much to ask to get to three finals in four years… but who knows?! – Voltaire
I think we are going out at the group stage in all honesty. Due a shit season in Europe. With the final being in Moscow and the reputation of Russian police I’m not too bothered, especially after the Athens fallout, any trouble and it will be rubber bullet up your arse over there! Hope we put reserves out in UEFA cup and don’t waste our time, concentrate on the league. Its the one we really want after all. – Tiger Tony
At the moment I wouldn’t say I’m confident that we’ll get out of the group stages. 6 points against Besiktas is a must. However, if we do we’ve got as much chance as anyone of going all the way. I think most teams, both English and abroad underestimate the Anfield effect. Big European nights at Anfield are better than anywhere else in the world and it gives us an edge in the knockout stages. I remember Arsenal fans in the Paris run suggesting you had great European home nights, but ask any honest Chelsea fan who was at Anfield either of the last two semis (particularly the first one) if they’ve ever heard an atmosphere like it anywhere and they will tell you they haven’t. We’re not the perfect fans, we’re often quiet in the league – but Europe is where we come into our own. – -HH-
If we beat Besiktas, we have 4 pts and I think we’re back in with a good shout of getting out of the group. The Marseille game was a real shocker for us all but I think if we manage to reach the last 16 the sky’s the limit as anything can happen over two legs as we all know although personally I feel Barcelona will take all the stopping this year. – Phil M
Hard to say. Still think we’ll get out of the group stage even if we don’t beat Besiktas on Wednesday, When it gets to the knockout stage we seem to get fantastic momentum and our atmosphere at Anfield has a huge impact. No reason why we cant go all the way, but I dont know how itll pan out. – rodderzzz
Where do you think Arsenal will finish in the table?
See question 2 – again, really hard to predict this season. You’ve started really well, but it’s early days and you’ve had the majority of your games at the Emirates. Like us, you have had problems on the road in the past couple of seasons, though I expect you to be more resilient away from home this time around … I’ll say – second, behind us! – The Jackal
I still want to see how you get on when you leave London, but you should comfortably see yourselves in the title race on your home form alone. I’m gonna say forth, but still right in the mix and way ahead of the team in fifth. Next season and beyond, with your young squad… well, anything appears possible and my scepticism over your lack of a midfield general appears unfounded. – Garstonite
Arsenal will finish fourth, just cannot see you midfield holding up despite the best central midfielder in the league pulling the strings. A couple of injuries and you’ll struggle, plus the lack of a top-class goal keeper will hamper you in the long run. As I say the African Nations will decimate your back line, doubtless Wenger will have a few 14 year olds up his sleeve … – Voltaire
I will be honest I thought you might struggle to make fourth but fair play you have been pretty good so far, although I think your fixtures have been easier so far. If you come out of the games against us and Man U with 4 or 6 points there is no reason why you can’t keep momentum going and finish as champions IMO. Although inexperience may tell. I can’t say 2nd because I have said us for 2nd. So I will say 1st purely because I don’t want it to be the Mancs. – Tiger Tony
3rd or 2nd, same as us – no idea which way round. – -HH-
2nd or 3rd. The injury to van Persie has come at a really bad time, but I have been considerably impressed by the young talents at the Emirates, the fact that Gilberto Silva, one of the most complete midfielders around can’t get in the team is an indication of how much talent there is in the squad, the loss of Adebayor (possibly) and Kolo Touré to the African nations could be a serious blow to your title hopes though so I think you’ll go close but might just fall short. – Phil M
It’s not going to be a popular answer but I think you’ll finish third. behind us and United. Though I hope you finish second behind us – rodderzzz
Who will be your most dangerous player this weekend?
Torres, if Rafa decides to play him!! You’ve got pretty pacy defenders, so Rafa might go for Crouch instead!! – The Jackal
A lot will say Torres, but his main threat will probably be nullified if he’s up against anyone with true pace. His main asset will be in creating space for his partner, so I’ll say whoever gets the nod alongside him. Gerrard’s not been himself recently, but we’ll know he’s capable of turning on. Not dangerous, but watch out for another masterclass from Mascherano – the lad will be one of the world’s best in the next couple of years, if he isn’t already. – Garstonite
I’ll go for Crouch, think he’ll get the nod for a big game for the first time this season and he’ll be raring to go. Your defence struggled with him last season – I doubt anything will have changed there. A man with a point to prove, and who better than the Gunners who are too nice to kick him out of the game. Lots of balls in to the box for Torres and Crouch, I just hope the Hoff is in goal – pure comedy that he is still at your club. Wenger will rightly go down as the most astute manager in the transfer market in the modern age, but he has cannot spot a good keeper and that’s what has cost you a European Cup. Odd, you’d have thought he’d be right on the money spotting men who are good handling balls in the box – Voltaire
Torres if he plays. He is immense. Strength, power, speed, takes no shit off people kicking him, does not roll round like a ponce. He is what makes me think we will win the league soon. – Tiger Tony
Fernando Torres. If you can keep him quiet that’ll be half the battle. You’ll also need to attempt to outbattle Mascherano – something that you singularly failed to do at Anfield last season. – -HH-
Xabi Alonso. He can make us tick. Steven Gerrard is still suffering with his form but the return of Xabi might just bring the best out in him (we hope!) – Phil M
If Torres is fit….which everybody seems to be confident of…then he has a huge impact. He’s so fast upront you just can’t take your eye off him. It’s also thought Alonso could be fit which will balance the midfield. One of the main reasons we’ve struggled the last month is the absence of Alonso. –rodderzzz
Who do you think will be Arsenal’s most dangerous player?
Fabregas. He’s been on fire this season hasn’t he?!? Looked good last season too, but now he’s playing just a little bit further up the pitch, getting in and around the box more and with more confidence in his shooting it has allowed him to add goals to his already dangerous game. He can both create and score – always a good trait for a midfielder. – The Jackal
Difficult to say – it’s often the case that goals scored in this sort of fixture come from an unfamiliar source. Fabregas has been absolutely unbelievable from what I’ve see from him and with the tempo you set, anybody will be dangerous if we are forced to stick with Hyypia, rather than Agger. – Garstonite
Fabregas – I was dismissive of him for a while; but then he began to prove to me just how good he is. Adhesive ball control, can pick a pass out anywhere on the pitch and is adding goal threat; what a signing he is turning out to be. I’m actually looking forward to watching him play, the little bastard. – Voltaire
Adebayor has looked good this season. Although I think the whole team are playing pretty well from what I have seen. So I think we need to be top of our game to stop you. It seems you are back to that brand of football from a few years ago that was entertaining as well as devastating for opposition. When Arsenal are at their best they are fearsome as well as awesome. – Tiger Tony
Fabregas is the easy answer but we showed last year that he can be out battled. In fact he’s been outbattled by a lot of lesser teams away from the Emirates too and this will be a tough game for him. He’s got all the ability to boss a game like this away from home so let’s see if he can stand up to the challenge. Even if he can’t, still a cracking player for his age. Him aside, Adebayor looks like developing into the player he’s always had the talent to be and his strength will be a massive plus for you. – -HH-
Fabregas is the first name that springs to mind, what a great season he’s had up to now. Otherwise I think Tomas Rosicky is a player that we all know has incredible skill and an eye for goal, I think he’s a huge threat when he’s on song. – Phil M
It’s no secret that fabregas makes you tick. It’ll be interesting to see how you set up at Anfield. Rosicky and Hleb will be dangerous on the counter, but I think carragher will look after Adebayor – rodderzzz
Who has been your best player so far this season?
Hard to pick anyone out really. I’d say Torres, but he’s only played about half the games. Benayoun has impressed me and should get more game time – one of our few really ‘creative’ players. Alonso has shown his quality through his absence – if that make sense?? Oh, and I can’t fault Pepe Reina at all this season … – The Jackal
Although rather negative, Arbeloa and Mascherano have stood out. Torres and Voronin have also settled well. – Garstonite
Our best player? Hard to say as nobody has been exceptional yet. Arbeloa has been constant and an improvement over Riise, Torres has come in and scored goals straight away – but I think I’ll give it to the henchman from Under Siege: Andre Voronin. The web forums were up in arms when he was signed, the usual blah blah blah dismissals from keyboard knob jockeys – but he has come in and looked bright, scored goals and generally been impressive in every game. – Voltaire
I would say Torres, shame he has not played more! I have been impressed with Voronin too, especially as he cost nothing. – Tiger Tony
Fernando Torres. Thus far, a few of our big guns (Gerrard, Carra etc) haven’t really been firing, which might be ominous for people if they start to soon. But Torres has been superb, such a talented player – he’s the all round striker Rafa has always wanted. He doesn’t have an obvious weakness and I struggle to see how he’s never got 20 goals in a season before. Hopefully he’ll change that this season. He’s well on his way. – -HH-
Pepe Reina has been almost faultless while Fernando Torres has also made a great start to his LFC career, Alvaro Arbeloa has really settled well at the back also. – Phil M
I think Torres has had a huge impact, but I dont think anybodys had a stand out season so far, and we are not playing to our potential by any stretch. – rodderzzz
Which line-up are we most likely to see?
Haha – are you serious?? Haven’t a clue.. (We have a RAWK Rafa Prediction league where we try to predict line ups – I don’t think anyone has ever got 11 correct..) I will have a wild guess at: Reina, Finnan-Carra-Sami-Arbeloa, Gerrard-Masch-Alonso-Benayoun, Torres-Kuyt – The Jackal
Never guess Benitez’s selections – it’s that much of a lottery, we’ve set up a fantasyrafa competition where predicting all 11 is about as rare as coming down to find Bigfoot in your lounge. For you I’ll make an exception and say, Reina Finnan Carragher Agger Arbeloa Gerrard Alonso Mascherano Pennant Kuyt Torres. – Garstonite
Predicting the line up with Rafa is pointless, a bit like predicting the colour your shit before you goto the bog. I just hope Alonso and Torres are back. Alonso will love the space and time your midfield will give him, a perfect game back. – Voltaire
I think Torres will be back in, possibly Agger and Alonso we hope. If Agger is back I think the back four speak for themselves. I will go with Pennant Gerrard Mascherano Benayoun in the middle and Torres and Kuyt up front. But as I am sure you well know it is hard for any Liverpool fan to guess the starting 11! – Tiger Tony
Put a Liverpool squad list up on the wall and stick eleven pins in it. You’ve got as much chance as me. That’s not a dig at Rafa by the way, for me he gets it right more often than not and this ‘tinkerman’ bullshit is just that. Bullshit. I’d like to see something along the lines of:
Reina, Finnan-Carra-Agger (if fit, if not Hyypia)-Arbeloa, Mascherano-Alonso-Pennant-Gerrard-Babel, Torres – -HH-
If they’re fit: Reina, Finnan-Carragher-Hyypia-Arbeloa, Gerrard-Alonso-Mascherano-Riise, Kuyt-Torres – Phil M
It’s Rafa, and almost impossible to predict at this stage, bearing in mind that we’ve still got Besiktas in the week, but I’ll have a go … Reina, Finnan-Carragher-Hyypia-Riise, Pennant-Sissoko-Mascherano-Gerrard, Voronin-Torres – rodderzzz
Care to predict the score?
2-1 to us… – The Jackal
Have my fingers and toes crossed for a victory and will go for a 1-0. – Garstonite
2-0 reds, with our best performance of the season. Torres and Crouch with the goals; cue premature predictions of the Premierleague! – Voltaire
I think we can win this, especially after the derby buzz, but you are playing well and obviously you will go into this game with optimism, so I am going to say 2-2. Maybe one of us to sneak a late winner and win 3-2, hopefully us – Tiger Tony
2-0 to ourselves. This is your first big test of the season, it’s away from home and going by how motivated we were for the Chelsea home game I think we’ll triumph. But who knows? It’s a tough one to call. – -HH-
1-1, I think we can end your winning streak but whether we can raise our game enough to take 3 pts is another thing. We played some fantastic stuff in this game last season as I’m sure you won’t want to recall, we all hope Xabi Alonso will be fit to take his place. Good luck. – Phil M
Massive game that I think we’ll win. I’ll go with 3-1 – rodderzzz
I find it very interesting and quite good responses from the Liverpool fans and many thanks to those in RAWK who took their time to participate in answering the questions.
Very confident despite their dipped form, and a very frustrating game in their European campaign which makes it a very intense game we’re facing this Sunday!
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