reds in champs league scrap

LIVERPOOL, England - Javier Mascherano believes Liverpool can still secure a place in next season's Champions League despite accepting they deserve all the criticism that has come their way.

LIVERPOOL, England - Javier Mascherano believes Liverpool can still secure a place in next season's Champions League despite accepting they deserve all the criticism that has come their way.

Though Liverpool have failed to win seven times in their past 11 Premier League matches, Rafael Benitez's underperforming team will move to within one point of fourth place if they defeat Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield today.

The match against Spurs, who currently occupy the Premier League's fourth and final qualifying spot for Europe's elite competition, has taken on extra significance for Liverpool after their woeful recent form.

Having seen his side suffer early exits from this season's Champions League and FA Cup, as well as falling out of the race for the English title, Benitez knows the only way he can salvage the campaign is by Liverpool finishing in fourth place.

But Liverpool's task against Tottenham has been made harder by the absence of inspirational captain Steven Gerrard (hamstring) and star striker Fernando Torres (knee).

Argentina captain Mascherano said the team could overcome their difficulties by pulling together as a squad.

"The situation is enough to get anyone down, but this team is going to keep going forward because of the spirit and history of the club," said Mascherano.

Tottenham have not won a league game at Anfield since 1993 yet manager Harry Redknapp's side arrive at Anfield on the back of a six-match unbeaten run.

They surprised Liverpool with a 2-1 defeat on the opening day of the season.

Meanwhile, coach Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal have a golden opportunity to underline their title credentials as they bid to go top of the Premier League with a two-goal victory over Bolton in another match today.

Wenger's side defeated Bolton 2-0 at the Reebok Stadium on Sunday and a repeat of that result in north London would be enough to send the Gunners above Chelsea and Manchester United into first place.

"It is important psychologically, not mathematically so much," Wenger said.

"We have a good opportunity to do it so we have to focus."

But the Frenchman is convinced his young team is capable of lasting the distance in the title race as long as captain Cesc Fabregas stays fit and in form. - Sapa-AFP

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