Gunners, Reds prepare for pivotal contest
Arsenal will attempt to build on the euphoria generated by their demolition of Tottenham when they travel to Liverpool on Saturday in what is a pivotal Premier League match for both clubs.
The Gunners gave their rapidly disintegrating season the kiss of life last weekend when they fought back from 2-0 down to thrash third-placed Tottenham 5-2 to regain their place in the top four, at the expense of Chelsea.
It remains to be seen though whether Sunday's dazzling win at the Emirates marks a significant momentum shift for Arsenal or whether it is the latest in a long line of false dawns for Arsene Wenger's men.
A victory at Anfield in Saturday's early kick-off would see Arsenal move to within four points of Spurs, who face a daunting home clash against second-placed Manchester United on Sunday.
However Arsenal's revival could be halted dead in its tracks by a Liverpool side brimming with optimism following their League Cup final win over Cardiff.
Liverpool desperately need all three points against Arsenal to keep alive their hopes of a top-four finish and a place in next year's UEFA Champions League.
Defeat to Arsenal would see Kenny Dalglish's men left needing to overhaul a 10-point deficit to realise the club's dream of a return to Europe's top table. Liverpool winger Stewart Downing believes the club's push for Europe will be boosted by last Sunday's League Cup win over Cardiff, a victory which marked the end of a six-year trophy drought at Anfield.
"I think what the win does is makes you even more confident and it gives you an incentive to go on and try and win and play in more finals," Downing said. "We are still going for a Champions League place with fourth position. There is a lot to play for and hopefully we can carry on doing well."
Meanwhile the race for top spot sees leaders Manchester City presented with another opportunity to pile the pressure on rivals United. City face Bolton at Eastlands on Saturday knowing that victory will give them a five-point lead over United ahead of their game with Spurs 24 hours later.
So far reigning champions United have remained stubbornly on the coat-tails of City, most notably last weekend when they overcame a late equaliser to snatch a 2-1 win at Norwich which kept them within two points of the top.
According to striker Wayne Rooney, the win over Norwich reflected United's iron nerve forged over the course of countless league and cup triumphs. "When I was a young lad and first at the club we might have been losing a game 1-0 or 2-1 and I've have been saying 'just put the ball in the box' and panicking a bit about losing the game," Rooney said.
"Now I'm older and more experienced you know to just keep playing your game because there's always a chance you'll get an opportunity to score. I think that comes from playing so many games and the experience you pick up along the way."
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas finds himself walking a tightrope yet again as his team travel to West Bromwich Albion for a game his side dare not lose. Villas-Boas bought himself some fleeting breathing space after last weekend's home victory over Bolton but is back on the defensive after giving a radio interview this week in which he appeared to criticise the club's hierarchy.
The Portuguese manager admitted he could be sacked by owner Roman Abramovich and compared his current position to the situation faced by Carlo Ancelotti, who was unceremoniously dumped at the end of the season. "We are now in the exact same moment as last year," Villas-Boas said. "It is an exact copy.
"The pattern of behaviour of the owner has led to a (manager's) downfall in similar situations or even 'better' situations. What will be the reaction? It will be one of the two, a continuation of the project and full support or just the cultural pattern that has happened before. We don't know."
But Villas-Boas's comments are reported to have angered senior Chelsea officials, with some newspapers claiming the 34-year-old could be fired if they fail to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals.