(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Two clubs with top four aspirations meet at Anfield on Sunday afternoon when Liverpool host Arsenal.
Liverpool started the season poorly with a 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich, but a much-improved performance in a 2-2 draw against Manchester City gave the fans optimism, which was further boosted by the Europa League aggregate win over Hearts on Thursday evening.
"The objective was to get into the (Europa League) group stage and we got there," said manager Brendan Rodgers. "We made hard work of it but congratulations to Hearts, they played well and it was always going to be a difficult game for us. We were wasteful but we got through, which was the most important thing.
"Hearts worked hard but Jose Reina was never really threatened in goal. But we still needed to respond to their goal and we got that response. We didn't lose the game which is important. The boys have been excellent so far this season, I can have no complaints. They had to dig in a wee bit tonight, it was important we kept the faith but that final ball just didn't allow us to get the goal a bit earlier. But I'm delighted to get through."
Just 18 months after his £35 million transfer to Liverpool, Andy Carroll was this week loaned out to West Ham, and Rodgers was quick to explain the decision to let the striker go for the season.
"I've had conversations and good communication with Andy through the summer," said Rodgers. "It's been difficult in this period for Andy. He hasn't played as regularly as he would have wanted and he wanted to play regularly this season and I couldn't guarantee that.
"He and I spoke - he wants to play and unfortunately for us we're not in a position to have a £35 million player not playing regularly. The club made a monumental investment in Andy but there's no use him being on the bench. There was a chance to go out and play and demonstrate his qualities. It allows us to move on and assess it over the season."
Arsenal have started the season with two goalless draws, prompting doubts over the suitability of their summer signings, but manager Arsene Wenger has urged for patience.
"At the moment I do not want to put too much pressure on them," said the Frenchman. "I remember Thierry Henry arrived here and did not play before November, Robert Pires arrived here and for a few months was not an automatic starter. So you have to give players who have come in a bit of time to adapt to the league and continue to try to play well as a team."
Liverpool are without Lucas Leiva and Joe Cole. Arsenal have doubts over Wojciech Szczesny (rib), Lukasz Fabianski (back) and Laurent Koscielny (calf), while Tomas Rosicky, Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong remain out.
Arsenal won 2-1 at Anfield last season, but both goals were scored by the now departed Robin van Persie. Two of the five goals between these two last season were own goals, with Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny both finding the Arsenal net. Van Persie is the only player to have scored against Liverpool for the Gunners in the last two seasons. Wenger's side have taken at least a point from their last five meetings to Anfield - winning two and drawing three of the league matches since 2007. Liverpool's five goals conceded so far this season is the club's worst tally at the start of a season for 48 years.
Updated August 31, 2012