Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez admitted on Thursday that he fears defeat to Fiorentina in the Champions League might affect his side ahead of Sunday’s home Premier League clash with Arsenal.
Fiorentina came from behind to snatch a win in the final minute, the third time in the group stage that Liverpool have dropped points with a last-minute goal.
“We were trying to be positive after three clean sheets and six games without losing, so it is really disappointing,” Benitez said.
“We know Arsenal is a very important game for us because it is a chance for us to be closer to the top against one of our rivals.
“We know it can give us more options and could be a new start to the season for us.” On the plus side, striker Fernando Torres came through the game unscathed on his return from a hernia operation, while midfielder Alberto Aquilani at last made his full debut.
“To see Aquilani, to see Torres, those were the real positive things for the next match and the rest of our season,” said Benitez.
“Aquilani showed his quality, his touch was good. His vision and passing were good, but obviously he will have to work on his match fitness.” Liverpool lie seventh in the table, 12 points behind leaders Chelsea, who will look to get their season back on track after last week’s defeat at Manchester City as they host Everton.
“It has been a bit of a bumpy week,” said forward Joe Cole, “and we need to bounce back at the weekend and get back to winning ways.” They will be without midfielder Michael Essien, though, who has a strained hamstring.
Manchester United, two points back, welcome Aston Villa and could again be without a fleet of defenders.
Nemanja Vidic should be back after his flu and will partner midfielder Michael Carrick at centre back.
Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs should also return to the squad that beat Wolfsburg 3-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Fourth-placed Tottenham host Wolverhampton Wanderers, while Manchester City travel to the struggling Bolton Wanderers, and Portsmouth, having won their first game under Avram Grant on Saturday, travel to Sunderland, who have lost just once at home but have been beaten in their last two games.