Arsenal lifted by Henry's availability ahead of high noon duel

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The Independent Football

Arsenal face Liverpool at midday today, a fixture that Arsène Wenger has described as "a big, big, massive game," three days after bowing out of the Champions' League.

Arsenal face Liverpool just after midday today, a fixture that Arsène Wenger has described as "a big, big, massive game," three days after bowing out of the Champions' League.

But the Arsenal manager was insisting last night that if his team goes on to win the Premiership, it will prove that they are the best team in the country, despite their midweek European defeat to Chelsea. Wenger also hinted that he will be able to field Thierry Henry at some point this weekend.

Despite the fact that he had to take his top scorer off against Chelsea at Highbury on Tuesday night with a back strain and initially feared he would definitely miss both of their Easter fixtures, Wenger believes the French striker will be able to play a part.

Henry, who has 31 goals this season, faced a fitness test last night and Wenger said he is set to feature in Arsenal's hectic schedule, which also sees them travel to St James' Park to play Newcastle on Sunday.

"The injury came in the game the other night," Wenger said. "I will be sensible with him. He has a locked back so I will not take a chance. He will play at some point."

However, while Wenger admitted that Arsenal have a tough task in responding to the Chelsea defeat and their reverse to Manchester United in the FA Cup last Saturday, he believes the Premiership is the truest test of a side's calibre.

He said: "This game is as important as Chelsea and as important as Manchester United last week. When you get a knock from the left and from the right, to walk normal again is difficult. So for us to walk normal is very important now.

"It [the Premiership] is the most difficult to do," he added. "You do not achieve 30 games unbeaten in the modern game without special character. I still think the championship is a real reflection on the quality of the team because that needs consistency."

The Gunners are four points clear of Chelsea, their closest challengers, and have played one game fewer. A win against Liverpool will restore their advantage to seven points. However, Wenger said: "I must concede it [the Premiership] is far from being done now because Chelsea have had a lift. It is up to us to respond and quickly. The players are focused but disappointed. They are intelligent and they know what is at stake."

Wenger, who took Arsenal to the Premiership in 1998 and 2002, admitted he has as big a role to play as the squad during the title run-in. "It is just to me to remind them how strong and how great they are," he said. "Sometimes you forget that quickly if you have two disappointments. My job is to get that in their brains again."

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