Liverpool Club Focus – Dalglish with dilemma over who will replace Agger against Arsenal

Carling Cup champions Liverpool welcome Arsenal to Anfield this weekend, with both sides on a high after significant wins in their last fixtures. The Reds clinched their first trophy in six years as they edged out Welsh side Cardiff City in a penalty shootout last Sunday, while the Gunners came from 2-0 down to thump local rivals Tottenham Hotspur 5-2. That impressive result took Arsene Wenger’s side seven points clear of fellow Champions League hopefuls Liverpool, though the Merseysiders have a crucial game in hand.

Should Kenny Dalglish’s men pick up maximum points from both the Arsenal clash and their game in hand against Everton, Liverpool would be within just a single point of the Gunners. With that in mind, some might suggest that the outcome of this game could spur one of these two sides on to end the season on a high and secure fourth spot. And while there would still be more than 10 games of the season left after this match, a win for either side could still prove to be a huge boost.

Liverpool may feel that they already have the momentum following their long-awaited cup triumph. Prior to the Wembley final, skipper Steven Gerrard himself spoken of how big an impact winning a trophy could have on the team as they aim to achieve the rest of their goals before the season is out. Unfortunately for Reds’ fans, their influential midfield maestro could miss out on the game against Arsenal after he picked up an injury just half an hour in to England’s 3-2 friendly defeat at the hands of World Cup finalists Holland.

Dalglish will be used to coping without his main man – Gerrard has made just 11 Premier League appearances this term, including only six starts. The loss of defender Daniel Agger could prove to be more of a problem. Agger, who himself has been plagued by injury problems throughout his Liverpool career, sustained a fractured rib against Cardiff and is likely to be out for a few weeks. It is up to Dalglish to decide which one of Jamie Carragher, Martin Kelly or Sebastian Coates will replace the Dane.

In the 20 fixtures that Agger has started in the top-flight this campaign, Liverpool recorded eight clean sheets. The Reds failed to keep a clean sheet in the other five games. The 27-year-old has been a key player for the Anfield outfit this term alongside Martin Skrtel, but the Slovakian Player of the Year will now need a new, short-term defensive partner.

Veteran centre-back Carragher – who replaced Agger at Wembley last weekend – is favourite for the role, but the Reds’ vice-captain has played just 108 minutes of league football in the last four months. Uruguayan summer signing Coates has made just two top-flight appearances all season, so Dalglish may be willing to give the youngster more game time. Meanwhile highly-rated Kelly, who has played mainly as a right-back since breaking into the senior team, can also play as a centre-half. Dalglish has plenty of options available to fill Agger’s boots.

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