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50-50 Challenge

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Leg 1
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By ESPN Staff

European status at risk, says Dalglish

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is well aware the club's proudly-held European status could hinge on their result against Braga.

The FA Cup semi-final draw was not kind to the Reds' hopes of retaining an interest in continental competition beyond this season. An all-Manchester semi-final means that unless either United or City finish outside the top four, the European place allocated to the FA Cup winners will go to either Stoke or Bolton.

That leaves fifth place in the Premier League as the remaining qualification spot - unless Liverpool can win the Europa League and thereby enter next season's competition as defending champions.

With fifth-placed Tottenham six points ahead with a match in hand that may be the likely scenario for Liverpool, although Dalglish will not give up on catching Spurs in their remaining nine league matches until it is mathematically impossible to do so.

Overcoming a 1-0 deficit from the first leg of their last 16 tie is well within their capabilities as Braga did not suggest a week ago that there was anything to fear from them at Anfield.

''We can only deal with this game. We can't think too far ahead,'' said Dalglish. ''We want to be playing at the highest level we possibly can. To do that we have to win matches, starting with the game tomorrow night.

''We've got to win by two goals to maintain our European status this year. Every game for us is really important. That starts tomorrow night and continues until the end of the season. Where we get to after that will only be determined by how well we do.

''European football and this football club are synonymous. We'd love that to continue.''

The five-time European champions and three-time UEFA Cup winners last failed to qualify for continental competition in 1999, when they finished seventh in the league.

They bounced back to make the Champions League the following year and have been a regular on the European circuit ever since, famously winning their fifth crown in Istanbul in 2005 and reaching the final again in 2007.

However, with the domestic balance of power having changed somewhat with Tottenham's increasing strength and Manchester City's vast wealth, a swift return to the elite competition appears a distant dream at the moment.

But that is not an issue which concerns Dalglish, who can at least take solace from the fact his side cannot play as badly tomorrow as they did in their opening 45 minutes in Braga.

The Reds boss knows his team will be expected to take the game to the visitors at an expectant Anfield and is confident they can do that.

''I don't think they were too offensive at home,'' he added. ''I would expect Braga to be pretty much how they were in the first leg, that seems to be their style of play home or away.

''On the night they were probably just a bit better than us but we were very disappointed with the way we played. We'd like to think we can play a lot better than we did and if we do it's up to Braga to step up to the plate and lift their game.

''If they don't they could be in a bit of trouble. But the state of the tie won't influence how we go about the game. We'll approach the game as professionally and as determined as we would whatever the score was.''


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