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Arsenal, Liverpool ready to follow the money

SoccerNews in UEFA Champions League 26 Aug 2008

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Five-time European champions Liverpool and 2006 runners-up Arsenal will Wednesday look to bolster their coffers by ensuring they reach the lucrative Champions League group stage.

Liverpool's summer was largely characterised by their so far fruitless quest to land Aston Villa's England midfielder Gareth Barry with Liverpool unwilling to shell out 18 million pounds (32 million dollars) for his services and Arsenal have since also courted the player.

Failure to reach the group stage – the fate of Scotland's Rangers – would blow a hole in the region of 15 million dollars in the season budget and leave respective coaches Rafa Benitez and Arsene Wenger facing up to their own version of the credit crunch.

In reaching the final two years ago, Liverpool earned almost 40 million dollars along the way, more than enough to land Barry and pay his wages while also placating the Anfield faithful by keeping Xabi Alonso, who interests Arsenal though Juventus were favoured to land him earlier this summer.

Notwithstanding back-to-back, albeit narrow, Premiership wins over Sunderland and Middlesbrough, Liverpool certainly need some kind of inspiration when they take on Standard Liege at Anfield having negotiated a barely-deserved goalless draw in Belgium, Liege missing a penalty.

New signing Robbie Keane says at this stage of the season results outweigh the actual level of performance.

“When you don't play as well as you know you can but you are still getting results then that is a sign of a good team,” he told Liverpool's official website – a comment which was as true of the game in Liege as the one against Boro.

Arsenal, their Premiership title tilt already rocked by Saturday's loss to Fulham, at least have the cushion of a 2-0 win achieved over Steve McClaren's FC Twente in the Netherlands but Arsene Wenger has demanded a massive improvement on Saturday's drab fare at Craven Cottage.

“We have a big game on Wednesday night and we have to respond with a top class performance because was we did today (Saturday) was just not good enough,” said Wenger on arsenal.com.

The Dutch are competing among Europe's elite for the first time but offered little in the first game to suggest that they are capable of raining on an Arsenal parade – which will at least mean McClaren has no need of the infamous umbrella under which he sheltered as England exited the Euro 2008 qualifiers.

The first leg goals from William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor meant Arsenal were able to set themselves up for a second leg stroll despite the absence of hamstring victim Cesc Fabregas.

Twente's chances of an upset have not been aided by the losses of both Marko Arnautovic, who came close to a consolation goal in the opening encounter but suffered a torn hamstring in midweek playing for Austria's Under-21 side, and also Blaise Nkufo, club top scorer for the past five seasons.

Given the competition's pot of gold status beyond the qualifiers there is a pressing need for four other former champions – Liverpool aside – to make it through this week.

Barcelona and Juventus are both as good as home and dry after respective 4-0 wins over Poland's Wisla Krakow and SLovakia's Artmedia Petrzalka.

Marseille, the only French side to lift the European Cup, should build on the 1-0 scoreline they brought home from Norway's Brann, while Steaua Bucharest, who denied Terry Venables' Barcelona in the 1986 final, should also complete the job after their 2-2 draw away to Turkey's Galatasaray.

Elsewhere, Germany's Schalke 04 will seek to cement their 1-0 advantage over Spain's Atletico Madrid while Ukraine's Dynamo Kiev, 4-1 up from the away leg, should secure regional bragging rights against Russia's Spartak Moscow.

As Arsenal try to go one better than their 2006 final loss to Barcelona their former coach, ex-Scotland international Bruce Rioch, will attempt to steer his Danish club Aalborg past Lithuania's Kaunas, who must overcome a 2-0 deficit.

Champions League third qualifying round second leg fixtures (1st leg scores in brackets):

Tuesday: (1845 GMT)

Panathinaikos (GRE) v Sparta Prague (CZE) (2-1)

Artmedia Petrzalka (SVK) v Juventus (ITA) (0-4)

Wisla Krakow (POL) v Barcelona (ESP) (0-4)

Wednesday:

(1600 GMT) BATE Borisov (BLR) v Levski Sofia (BUL) (1-0)

(1700) Kaunas (LTU) v Aalborg (DEN) (0-2)

(1745) Dynamo Kiev (UKR) v Spartak Moscow (RUS) (4-1)

(1800) Fenerbahce (TUR) v Partizan Belgrade (SRB) (2-2)

(1815) FC Basel (SUI) v Vitoria Guimaraes (POR) (0-0)

(1845) Slavia Prague (CZE) v Fiorentina (ITA) (0-2)

Dynamo Zagreb (CRO) v Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) (0-2)

Olympiakos (GRE) v Anorthosis Famagusta (CYP) (0-3)

Steaua Bucharest (ROM) v Galatasaray (TUR) (2-2)

Marseille (FRA) v SK Brann (NOR) (1-0)

Atletico Madrid (ESP) v Schalke 04 (GER) (0-1)

(1905) Arsenal (ENG) v FC Twente (NED) (2-0)

Liverpool (ENG) v Standard Liege (BEL) (0-0)

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