Liverpool and Arsenal clash for third place

March 31, 2007 7:55am CST
With Manchester United and Chelsea battling for the Premier League title, Liverpool and Arsenal are scrapping it out for third place. As the Premier League returns after a two-week international break, Liverpool hosts Arsenal on Saturday, hoping to break a three-game losing streak against the Gunners. "Whoever wins this game will finish third," said Liverpool midfielder Jermaine Pennant, who was an Arsenal player from 1999 to 2005. "For that reason this is one of our biggest games of the season. They have beaten us a few times this season so it's time for us to get a victory." Arsenal is third with 55 points, with Liverpool one point further back. Manchester United leads with 75 points, six ahead of Chelsea. The Gunners have a game in hand, and finishing third in the Premier League is the only thing left to play for after elimination from the Champions League on March 7. Liverpool also has to look ahead to Tuesday's Champions League quarterfinal first leg at PSV Eindhoven. Both teams haven't been in the best of form going into Saturday's game -- Liverpool lost 1-0 to Manchester United and drew 0-0 at Aston Villa. Arsenal lost its last game 1-0 to Everton. Arsenal's League Cup youngsters beat Liverpool 6-3 on Jan. 9, and the Gunners also won 3-1 at Anfield three days earlier to eliminate the Reds from the FA Cup third round. Arsenal also defeated Liverpool 3-0 in the league at the Emirates Stadium on Nov. 12. Liverpool may need captain Steven Gerrard to lead from the front _ just as he did with England on Wednesday. With England tied 0-0 with lowly Andorra after the first half, Gerrard scored two goals in the second half to key a 3-0 victory in a European Championship qualifying match. The result hasn't stopped the media and fans' strident criticism of England and coach Steve McClaren. It's been a stressful two weeks for the international players, who were also roundly attacked after the 0-0 draw against Israel on Saturday. British newspapers reported Thursday that midfielder Frank Lampard was dropped for the Andorra game, despite being cleared to play with a lightweight cast to protect his right wrist which he hurt in training. Lampard also reportedly wanted to return to Chelsea to get further treatment but was told to stay with the team. He should be free for the Blues' game at Watford on Saturday. England could have used midfielder Paul Scholes in its last two games, but Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is glad he retired after the 2004 European Championship. "He knows what the traveling with the international team is like and, coming to his age, I think he felt it was time to give more time to his family," Ferguson said. "That is the reason he gave up international football." Scholes will return for United's game against Blackburn on Saturday after completing a three-match ban. Ferguson should also have strikers Louis Saha (hamstring) and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer (knee), goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar (calf) and defender Darren Fletcher (ankle) back from injury. Also Saturday, it's Bolton vs. Sheffield United; Charlton vs. Wigan; Fulham vs. Portsmouth; Newcastle vs. Manchester City; and West Ham vs. Middlesbrough. On Sunday, Tottenham hosts Reading. In the League Championship on Saturday, Derby hosts Barnsley, seeking to maintain its two-point lead over Birmingham. Third-place Sunderland, which is three points behind Derby, is at Cardiff. Birmingham hosts Coventry on Sunday. Derby has 73 points, Birmingham 71 and Sunderland 70. The top two teams win automatic promotion to the Premier League.
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