The reward for the winner is a European Cup semi-final tie against the winner of Chelsea vs Fernerbache. And with the Reds having twice defeated the Blues in the semi-final of this competition in the last three seasons, Rafael Benitez’s side must fancy their chances of going all the way to the final, in Moscow on May 21st May.
Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher knows the importance of tonight’s fixture, as the Reds embark on a run of three games against the Gunners. The two Champions League games are either side of a crucial Premier League fixture on Saturday.
Carragher says, “The first leg in Europe is always the most important as that sets up the second leg,” Carragher told Liverpoolfc.tv.
“We’ve got to make sure we’ve still got a chance when we play at Anfield and hopefully we can turn that into a special night, but there’s no doubt the first leg is massive.”
Dirk Kuyt says Liverpool have the ability to beat anyone on their day, and their impressive form in Europe in recent seasons has proven this.
Ahead of tonight’s game, the Dutch international, who is likely to start on the right wing for the Reds said, “Arsenal are a good team and they play very good football, so we have to give them the respect they deserve,” he said.
“But in the last couple of seasons we have beaten Barcelona at the Nou Camp and Inter Milan at the San Siro, so we don’t need to fear anyone.
“We have so much experience in the Champions League and we have played so many good teams, so we should be confident about our own chances.
“We have shown that if we do our job right, we can beat anyone in this competition.”
Goalkeeper Pepe Reina believes Benitez’s remarkable record in European competition will give Liverpool the edge over Arsene Wenger’s side.
“Rafa’s record in Europe gives the team extra belief we will go through,” said Reina.
“He’s a genius when it comes to tactics and a true specialist in preparing teams for two-legged cup ties.
“His attention to detail and past record of success gives us so much confidence. I don’t know why we play better in the Champions League.
“In the league we have struggled with the endurance of competing with the big teams over nine months but the knock-out format suits us better.
“If this team continues growing by getting to the final in Moscow the Liverpool legend in Europe will be even more special.”
Meanwhile Benitez has issued a warning to Arsenal to watch out for in-form striker Fernando Torres. The Spanish centre-forward scored his 28th goal of his first season at Anfield when the Reds beat Merseyside rivals Everton at the weekend.
“Arsenal will know that Torres is on fire and is scoring goals and will be a problem for them,” Benitez insisted.
“Fernando also knows that if we play well he will score goals, so he will work hard for the team. As this is a European competition he wants to play well and score goals.
“He has a great mentality and is very competitive, but against the top sides he must be focused and have confidence in himself because against the best defenders it will be more difficult.”
Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.45pm and is live on Sky Sports.