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With the fourth installment of the UEFA Champions League Scouting Reports, I analyze Liverpool, a team that started out the season on a bad run but recently have been playing top class football and have recently taken down the tough Italian giants, Inter Milan, to get to their final 16 matchup against Arsenal. Can they handle their English foes?

 

Liverpool

Strengths

Liverpool has an array of strong attackers and defenders, but above them all is its captain, Steven Gerrard. Gerrard is the team's inspirational and athletic leader and is a huge fan favorite, playing with the club for ten years (427 caps) and scoring 94 goals, and he's only 27 years old, which is relatively young for a player with such a large stature and devotion from a club. Gerrard is defidently the best player on the club and the team revolves around his enthusiasm and charisma.

Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel, Dirk Kuyt, Andriy Voronin and Peter Crouch are all effective strikers and all have the ability to dictate games and change the pace on their own.

The midfield is one of the best in England. Along with Gerrard, it contains Xabi Alonso, Jermaine Pennant, Yossi Benayoun, Harry Kewell and Javier Mascherano. This group of players is the most dangerous part of their lineup and has been known to dictate games, being the deciding factor between winning and losing.

The defensive is stacked, as well, with Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger, John Arne Riise, Steve Finnan and Fabio Aurelio guarding the back line and brick wall Pepe Reina in goal. The defense has given up only 24 goals in the Premiership in 31 league games this year, which is tied for the third lowest in the league.

So all in all, their impressive depth and lineup, along with their dangerous bench, and the ability for players like Gerrard to score seemingly effortlessly in unexpected moments of the game are all major strengths of Liverpool at this time of the season.

Steven Gerrard is one of the best to ever wear a Liverpool jersey

Weaknesses

Liverpool are playing their best soccer of the season, but if looking from August to March shows anything, one will notice their inconsistancy as a major reason why they are currently struggling to stay afloat for fourth place in the league and are neck high in the water with the lurking shark that is Everton right on their tail. Dropping silly points to average teams like Portsmouth (4-2 loss), Reading (3-1 loss), Blackburn (0-0 draw), Wigan Athletic (1-1 draw) and several others has proven to be their kryptonite. At times Liverpool play incredibly, like their 8-0 romp of Turkey's Besiktas in the Champions League, while other times they look like the poor sheep of Derby County being torn to shreds by the angry wolves, Manchester United, by a score of 3-0 last Saturday.

Liverpool have had plenty of chances to get ahead of Everton, but every so often they drop silly points to a lackluster team that they should easily beat. It seems that either their whole lineup is playing world-class or like members of the youth squad, and it sometimes alternates from week to week. Liverpool have to be careful to stay focused and continue winning, as they have been in the past few months.

Some of their lack of concentration, though, can be credited to the big wigs of Anfield: American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, who have come under extreme scrutiny from the media and Liverpool fans, mainly because of Hicks comments that he would first contribute money to the Texas Rangers (another team he owns) before he would contribute to Liverpool. This left Liverpool fans calling for the pair to sell their shares to Dubai Investment Capital (DIC) who offered to purchase the club. This ordeal was front-page news for months, bringing in Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez and some of the players, taking away the focus from the athletic aspect of the team to the business aspect. With this ordeal mainly gone away, as the American pair probably will sell their shares, the players are able to focus on the game, and it's shone in their rise through the standings.

 

Stanley Park Stadium, Liverpool's new stadium set to be finished by 2010, will hold 60,000 seats, which is an upgrade from Anfield, Liverpool's current home.

Prediction

Liverpool have the ability to overcome the odds, and because of their slow start they have been widely regarded as an underdog in most Champions League contests, especially their recent matchup with Inter Milan, which they won confidently on a 3-0 aggregate. If Liverpool come out against a tough and determined Arsenal, and I think they will, then they can win. I see Liverpool traveling all the way to Moscow. Yes, that's right. Liverpool, the underdog, will reach the UEFA Champions League Final once again, but will once again be the last team to fall. Benitez does a great job with the team but I think we all can agree that this is not their year. However, if DIC actually do make the purchase, they (and their oodles and oodles of cash) will be able to bring in even more talent, making Liverpool an even bigger threat.

Liverpool's fan section, known as the Kop, is one of the most passionate and well known in the world.

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