Football: Newcastle face a 'Brazilian' test

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The Independent Online
SOME WOULD say it's just like playing France, but Stuart Pearce believes Arsenal's mixture of brain and brawn makes them the Premiership's version of Brazil.

Pearce, who faces the Double winners when Newcastle visit Highbury today, said: "People are writing Arsenal off this season but they're the best team in the country. Not only are they one of the most attractive sides going forward, they're also one of the most physical sides we'll face. I compare them to Brazil in that respect."

Newcastle, beaten 2-0 in this year's FA Cup final by Arsene Wenger's side, had won four games in a row before their 1-0 defeat by Partizan in Belgrade last week that put them out of the Cup-Winners' Cup.

Rob Lee could return to Ruud Gullit's side after missing the Belgrade game with a knee injury, while Steve Watson, another midweek absentee, may also play some part, even though he seemed surplus to requirements last week when he might have joined Everton. David Batty could make his first Premiership start of the season.

Arsenal's problem this season has been a lack of goals from the strikers, which was highlighted in midweek when the goals that beat the Greeks of Panathinaikos in the Champions' League came from Tony Adams and Martin Keown. Fredrik Ljungberg, their new Swedish signing who came on late and scored against Manchester United, will probably start in place of Ray Parlour, who has an ankle injury.

The Liverpool management team, by contrast, can be grateful to their strikers, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen. Their promising partnership has lifted the team's and ensured that talk about a Liverpool "double act" is neither about the management pairing of Gerard Houllier and Roy Evans nor derogatory. In the three games they have been paired in attack this season, Fowler has scored four times.

At Anfield today, the Liverpool pair test themselves against a Chelsea defence which shows surprising weaknesses given the presence of players like Franck Leboeuf and Michael Duberry.

The dreams that Hull City fans harboured of their side being mentioned in the same breath as Liverpool, Chelsea, Newcastle and Arsenal have faded into memory and David Lloyd, the British Davis Cup coach who bought the Third Division strugglers, has confirmed that he now wants to sell.

Lloyd feels thwarted in his plans to build a new stadium to share with the rugby league side Hull Sharks, which he also owns, and develop a sports giant. He has tired of what he sees as misguided, criticism by Hull City supporters.