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Xabi Alonso has played down talk of Liverpool FC being the favourites to progress to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, despite their highly-prized away goal in the first leg against Arsenal FC.
The 1-1 draw in north London last week has set the quarter-final second leg up perfectly, and the Liverpool midfielder believes the result could go either way at Anfield. "I still see the tie as quite balanced and we know that we play the second leg at home. We feel confident but I don't see ourselves as favourites," said Alonso.
The English rivals also drew 1-1 at Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday, although Alonso says that will have no bearing on the outcome of Tuesday night's showdown. "It was a different game [on Saturday]," the Spanish international said. "Now we are going to play the second leg of the Champions League. Because of that, it is going to be so important for both clubs and hopefully it will be good enough for us and we will go through."
Alonso admits this is Liverpool's most crucial encounter of the season, stressing: "We will have to be absolutely focused on the game. We feel confident in this competition and in the last few years we have been quite successful. Hopefully this year will be the same and we can go all the way again. In the Champions League, with two legs, we know that we can beat anyone. We have beaten big, big clubs and we are facing another one."
The meeting brings a trilogy of Liverpool v Arsenal matches within a week to a heady climax and the 26-year-old said: "We know each other quite well. Of course, playing two games in just three or four days, then playing a third one on the sixth day is something that is not very common but we are at home and we have an idea of how to prepare for the game and be ready."
The former Real Sociedad de Fútbol man also rejects suggestions that either side will be more tired than the other at this stage of the campaign. He said: "I'm pretty sure that, instead of being tired in such a big important game, you feel the motivation from somewhere else. You feel fresh enough to perform and to play with a high-tempo."
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