Wenger relishes English test as Liverpool stand in Arsenal's way

A red-on-red battle between English football's foreign stylists, Arsenal, and the English team with more European trophies than any other, Liverpool, in the Champions League quarter-finals could define both clubs' season. After being paired for a first-ever meeting in European competition, Arsène Wenger is optimistic of success but Rafael Benitez, while upbeat, acknowledged the mountainous path to glory ahead.

The draw in Switzerland also pitted Chelsea against Fenerbahce of Turkey, with the winner facing Arsenal or Liverpool in the semi-finals. Manchester United will meet Roma, with the victors earning a semi-final against Barcelona or Schalke.

Liverpool's task is daunting from any angle. The Champions League games with Arsenal, in London on Wednesday 2 April and at Anfield on Tuesday 8 April, sandwich a Premier League game against the Gunners at the Emirates. Three and none easy. Benitez's side, in a race with Everton for the coveted fourth place in the Premier League, also face the small matter of their two league games before the Arsenal meetings being at Manchester United (23 March) and a Merseyside derby (30 March).

Liverpool's Champions League assignment is put in context by the three teams they will most likely have to beat to win it: Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, in that order. The three teams above them in the league. Three teams they have failed to beat this season.

They have drawn twice with Chelsea in the Premier League and lost to them in the Carling Cup, lost to United at home in the League and took only a point at home against Arsenal. Liverpool fans will point to a good European record in recent seasons, especially against Chelsea, but Benitez would have preferred to avoid domestic opposition in the quarter-finals.

"Arsenal are at the top of the table, a very good team," he said. He suggested that Arsenal, unlike foreign opponents, will not be bowed by the atmosphere at Anfield. "Arsenal have experience in Anfield ... The first game will be important. To have a good result will be easier for our supporters to be on top of them. It's not the same situation when you talk about a foreign club."

He said that a draw at the Emirates "would be good" and that it would be important to score there. Asked if Liverpool, after rallying domestically and beating Internazionale, are the form side in Britain, he said: "We did really well in the beginning of the season, lost confidence with the draws but have more confidence now."

On his side's prospects, he added: "We have an opportunity to go forward but it will be difficult. When you play the Champions League, you play the best teams in Europe... I would like to play in the final against an English team because I would like to be in the final."

Wenger's CV in the competition includes one final, a defeat to Barcelona in 2006, while Benitez's includes two finals against Milan, with victory in 2005 being Liverpool's fifth European Cup success. But Wenger said Benitez's record "doesn't bother us at all. If on the day you are at your best ... I'm confident."

Wenger said he would "relish" meeting Chelsea (odds-on favourite to beat Fenerbahce) and then United, should United beat Roma and then, probably, Barça. He was also quick to highlight his side's superiority over Liverpool, in the domestic standings at least.

"I would relish [Chelsea and United] because it means we go through. But football is not predictable and that's why it's interesting. At the moment Liverpool are fighting to be in the Champions League and we are fighting for the championship. I believe that the players genuinely want to do well in both competitions. Don't forget that, since the start of the season, we have lost only one game in the championship and one game in the Champions League and that was when we were already qualified. So we are entitled to believe we can do well in both competitions.

"We showed against Milan that when we are at our best we can beat anyone. We just knocked Milan out, who were the holders. That was a big hurdle. Now we have the [other 2007] finalists on our route – so why can't we do it again?"

The Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, could be forgiven the same sentiment in relation to Roma. United beat them 7-1 at the same stage in the home leg last year, and took four points from the Italians in this season's group stage.

"It's incredible," he said. "I had a strong feeling that we would draw an English side. It's amazing to think that we will have played Roma six times in a year. That makes it an intriguing tie because we know a lot about Roma, but they know a lot about us."

He continued: "Away from the football, obviously my biggest concern is the fans. During the game in Rome this season the security was much improved. But there will be even more fans travelling with us. That said, I have a feeling it will be another great European tie."

Chelsea's Avram Grant was respectful about Fenerbahce. "They played very well against Seville. It's not an easy draw but our targets stay the same. We are a club that hasn't been in the final. We want to be in the final."

Champions League: The last eight on the road to Moscow

Arsenal v Liverpool. To be played: 2 and 8 April

League pos: 1st, Premier League
Coach: Arsène Wenger
EC best: Final
Champions League 2007/08: P8 W5 D2 L1 F16 A4. Top scorer: Cesc Fabregas 4

League pos: 4th, Premier League
Coach: Rafael Benitez
EC best: Winners (5)
Champions League 2007/08 P8 W5 D1 L2 F21 A5. Top scorer: Steven Gerrard 5

Schalke 04 v Barcelona. To be played: 1 and 9 April

Schalke 04
League pos: 5th, Bundesliga
Coach: Mirko Slomka
EC best: Quarter-Final
Champions League 2007/08: P8 W3 D2 L3 (1-0 defeat to Porto in Round of 16, 4-1 win after pen) F6 A5 . Top scorer: Kevin Kuranyi 3

League pos: 2nd, La Liga
Coach: Frank Rijkaard
EC best: Winners (2)
Champions League 2007/08: P8 W6 D2 L0 F16 A5. Top scorer: Lionel Messi 6

Fenerbahce v Chelsea. To be played: 2 and 8 April

League pos: 3rd, Süper Lig
Coach: Zico
EC best: Last 16
Champions League 2007/08: P10 W6 D2 L2* (won 3-2 penalties v Seville (First knock-out round)) F16 A11. Top scorer: Deivid 4

League pos: 3rd, Premiership
Coach: Avram Grant
EC best: Semi-final
Champions League 2007/08: P8 W4 D4 L0 F12 A2. Top scorer: Didier Drogba 4

Roma v Manchester United. To be played: 1 and 9 April

League pos: 2nd, Serie A
Coach: Luciano Spalletti
EC best: Final
Champions League 2007/08: P8 W5 D2 L1 F15 A8. Top scorer: Mirko Vucinic 4

Manchester United
League pos: 2nd, Premiership
Coach: Sir Alex Ferguson
EC best: Winners (2)
Champions League 2007/08: P8 W6 D2 L0 F15 A5. Top scorer: Ronaldo 6

Arsenal or Liverpool v Fenerbahce or Chelsea

(First leg 22/23 April, second leg 29/30 April)

Schalke 04 or Barcelona v Roma or Manchester United

(First leg 22/23 April, second leg 29/30 April)

Smith senses a Sporting chance

Rangers will face Sporting Lisbon in the quarter-finals of the Uefa Cup and their manager, Walter Smith, believes a semi-final against Fiorentina or PSV Eindhoven is a distinct possibility.

"Portuguese sides always have a bit of flair and a good balance but I feel we have a good chance to progress," Smith said. "We have gone through against one of the sides I considered to be one of the favourites [Werder Bremen, beaten 2-1 on aggregate] so hopefully we can continue our run. We are obviously delighted to be in the last eight and we would want to go further."

Rangers beat Sporting on the way to winning the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1972. Smith said: "Let's hope history repeats itself."

Quarter-finals: Bayer Leverkusen (Ger) v Zenit St Petersburg (Rus); Rangers (Sco) v Sporting Lisbon (Por); Bayern Munich (Ger) v Getafe (Sp); Fiorentina (It) v PSV Eindhoven (Neth). Ties to be played 3 & 10 April. Semi-finals: Bayern or Getafe v Bayer Leverkusen or Zenit St Petersburg; Rangers or Sporting Lisbon v Fiorentina or PSV Eindhoven. Ties to be played 24 April & 1 May. Final: City of Manchester Stadium, 14 May.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam