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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr, 7, 2008

Benitez: Gunners have one trophy to aim for

Rafael Benitez has insisted the Champions League is Arsenal's only chance of winning a trophy this season.

The Liverpool boss engineered a 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw with the Gunners at the Emirates on Saturday that all but finished the north Londoners' title challenge.

Being out of the title race is a situation Benitez and Liverpool have accepted weeks ago, but the Spaniard now believes that Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger are in the same boat.

That makes tomorrow's Champions League quarter-final second leg a winner-takes-all showdown for the two English giants.

And the outcome of the tie will dictate the success of failure of both clubs and their managers this season.

Benitez, with a priceless away goal from last week's engrossing 1-1 draw in the first leg, said: 'If they want to win a trophy then it must be this game because it will be very difficult to win the Premier League.

'Before the game on Saturday they knew they had to win to stay in the title race.

'He (Wenger) changed five players, but had to bring back his big players trying to win the game.

'Maybe afterwards he felt that the race for the title is over. But then United drew at Middlesbrough, so he will maybe think that their chance has returned.

'But I still believe this game at Anfield will be the most important match they have if they want to win a trophy.'

Benitez added: 'We are confident. We have been playing well in recent games and have been getting the results. The performances have been good. That is what we have been looking for at this stage of the season.

'But we are not favourites, not with the the quality players they have. But this will be different from the first leg, because playing at Anfield is a massive difference.

'And they need to win. It could well be an attacking game. It is important for the club and for me to progress. We have been working hard to get to this point all season, so it is important for all of us.

'Maybe they cannot win the title now, but with Manchester United drawing on Sunday there is still a slight chance. But I do not expect Arsenal to be thinking about the title now, just the Champions League.

'The Champions League is massive for them, that is what they will be thinking about.

'But we are in good form, our players are doing well and we have fresh legs.

'And for us, we need to score. Arsenal can always score away so we cannot think of a 0-0.'

But although Benitez believes Arsenal are experienced despite the suggestions that they have too many youngsters, he predicts that they could suffer just as Chelsea did in the famous 2005 semi-final at Anfield.

He said: 'You could feel the atmosphere against Chelsea in the semi-final, and I expect that to be the same this time. Our fans can also hold the key.

'I saw Chelsea affected by the Kop, it was clear. Hopefully it will be the same again.

'It is easy to say that you (Arsenal) do not have any problems with big crowds in away games of this importance. But when you have to face our fans for 90 minutes on top of you, then it is not easy for the majority of players.

'They have been here before. But the difference is the Champions League, it's knock-out now and that is the difference.

'This is our only option if we want to win anything. It is important for us, we need heart but also brain.'

Benitez will only be missing winger Jermaine Pennant from his squad as the former Arsenal man picked up a hamstring injury at the Emirates on Saturday.

Daniel Agger and Harry Kewell are long-term absentees, and Benitez will recall all the big guns rested at the weekend.

Javier Mascherano, suspended for the league game at Arsenal, will definitely return.

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