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English Premiership

Carragher banking on form

LONDON, February 9 – Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher is confident his side's rediscovered meanness can help them close the gap on faltering Arsenal.Wednesday night’s fixture at the Emirates Stadium sees the team in third place in the Premier League table host the team in fourth.

Arsenal had been top just a few weeks ago but back-to-back defeats by Manchester United and then Chelsea have seen them fall behind the top two and most pundits have now written off their title chances.

Liverpool are coming up strongly behind them and a season that was being labelled "in crisis" a few weeks ago is now looking much healthier for Rafa Benitez and co.

The clean sheet in the 1-0 Merseyside derby victory Everton at the weekend was their fourth straight shut-out and Benitez’s men have now taken 17 points from a possible 21 in their last seven league outings.

Carragher said: "Over the last four or five years defensively we’ve been as good as probably any team in the world.

"You have to look at the overall record and defensively we’ve had a fantastic record under Rafa Benitez and we’re showing that again now.

"At the start of the season we had a lot of people in and out and maybe we were playing a little bit different with two offensive full-backs.

"We’re just getting back to our normal selves and hopefully we can keep that going. If you keep clean sheets you’re going to win games because you only need to score one goal."

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Liverpool had been out of the top four since October and now they were back striker Dirk Kuyt is keen to stay there.

The Dutchman, who scored the winner against Everton, said: "Out of the last seven matches we have taken 17 points and have kept six clean sheets, so you can see from those results that we are playing better and our confidence is up.

"Now we have to keep going and make sure we are ready for the next game at Arsenal. We have to show that we really are back to our best form."

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said the weekend derby win would ensure his squad travel south in confident mood.

"Everybody is still on a high and now we have got to take that high into the Arsenal game," the England midfielder said. "It’s a tough one, Arsenal away always is, but we have used beating Everton as a platform in the past and we’ve got to do it again.

"We want to extend our run and go on to better things as we can’t afford any slip-ups. We showed fantastic togetherness against Everton, we fought for each other and it’s performances like this that will get you there."

The Arsenal players can probably understand how their Liverpool counterparts were feeling earlier in the season when rivals were prospering as they stumbled both at home and abroad.

The Gunners know they will remain in third place whatever the result however and defender Gael Clichy insists they have not given up hope of overhauling United and Chelsea before the end of the season.

Chelsea had also beaten Arsenal comfortably in November to establish an 11-point advantage but though only Wenger appeared to think that gap could be closed, the Gunners went on to do exactly that.

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Clichy said: "We don’t have to look for a long run – we have to think game after game and it starts with Liverpool. We have to think one game at a time but the less we lose, the better it will be.

"It is not going to be easy but it is not finished. We were 11 points behind and came back so we have to hope they drop points and make sure we don’t drop any. Let’s work on it, next we play against a good side in Liverpool. It is going to be difficult but we have to do it because if we want to be the best we have to compete."

Liverpool will be without Greece defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who starts a three-match ban for his sending-off against Everton.

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