Riise could be axed as Liverpool face Arsenal once again

SECOND CHANCE: The Reds come face to face with the north Londoners a mere three days after the Gunners dumped them out of the FA Cup


Tue, Jan 09, 2007 - Page 18

John Arne Riise has been warned his place is under threat ahead of Liverpool's re-arranged Carling Cup quarter-final tie with Arsenal at Anfield today.

The two sides meet for the second time in three days with the left-sided Norwegian international under pressure following his nightmare performance as holders Liverpool crashed out of the FA Cup after a 3-1 home defeat to Arsene Wenger's side on Saturday.

Riise was blamed for at least one of Arsenal's three goals and failed to finish the tie as he was replaced by Brazilian defender Fabio Aurelio.

Although Liverpool are in the last 16 of the Champions League, the Carling Cup represents the club's most realistic chance of securing any silverware this season with a two-legged semi-final with Tottenham awaiting the winners.

And manager Rafael Benitez has made it clear he is expecting a response from his players, and Riise in particular, with Liverpool, 14 points adrift of Premiership leaders Manchester United, fighting to save their season.

"If Riise continues working hard, that's ok," said Benitez.

"Maybe it was a mistake for the first goal and then maybe he lost his concentration," he said. "As for the substitution, I was thinking of Fabio as a player with quality. His crossing is really good and we needed to attack and to have more quality."

Liverpool are looking to avoid a fourth straight defeat at the hands of the Gunners and Benitez knows the key to victory lies with containing the London club's formidable strikeforce of Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie.

French international Henry scored Arsenal's third goal on Saturday to kill the tie after Dirk Kuyt had given the hosts hope of a fightback following a disastrous first-half in which Liverpool trailed to two Tomas Rosicky goals.

"The difference on Saturday was van Persie and Henry," said Benitez.

With a Premiership blockbuster against Manchester United fast approaching on Jan. 20, Wenger is likely to rest several key players for his side's second trip to Merseyside in quick succession.

This tie should have been played last month but was called off due to fog.

Henry, delighted to have scored his second goal in two games since returning from injury, is in no mood to rest.

He is eager to make up for lost time and wants another stab at Liverpool having moved a step closer to achieving his dream of playing in his first FA Cup final at Wembley.

"Our goal is to win the FA Cup," Henry said. "I've been at Arsenal a very long time and never played in an FA Cup Final at Wembley. We've played in a lot of finals over the years, but never there."