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Reina closing in on clean sheets record

Reina closing in on clean sheets record

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina will be just 90 minutes away from from equaling the club's record of 10 consecutive clean sheets when Middlesbrough arrive at Anfield today.

If the Spain international has another shut-out it will equal the record of 10 league and FA Cup matches set back in the 1987-88 season by Bruce Grobbelaar and his teammates, who were managed by Kenny Dalglish during a title-winning campaign in the old First Division.

Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, said his fellow Spaniard was fortunate to be playing alongside a solid defense.

"'Pepe' has an advantage because the team in front of him in defense are working so hard to restrict the chances we concede. The back four have been outstanding," Benitez said.

"They are organized and have better concentration than last season. But he is also an intelligent boy and he thinks hard about what he has to do in England," added the Liverpool boss, whose third-placed side is 12 points behind leader and reigning champion Chelsea.

Middlesbrough lost to Chelsea last week and manager Steve McClaren, who committed himself to another four years with the north-east club last month, knows another defeat will damage his side's hopes of qualifying for Europe.

Boro's Gaizka Mendieta and Stewart Downing are still several weeks away from returning from injury while right-back Stuart Parnaby, who missed out at Chelsea, is doubtful for the trip to Anfield.

Robben confident

Chelsea winger Arjen Robben is hoping the Blues can complete a double over new boys Wigan at Stamford Bridge today.

Wigan lost to a last-minute winner from Blues striker Hernan Crespo in its first Premiership match but, after also losing to Charlton, went on a stunning run that saw the Lancashire club claim 25 out of a possible 27 points in its next nine matches to rise into second place.

But the Latics have since dropped back to seventh and four days after today's match they are away to Manchester United. "Wigan have had a terrific season but they've lost the last two or three games, so we have to bring them another defeat," said Robben.

Crespo, Claude Makelele and Glen Johnson are all ruled out but England midfielder Joe Cole is fit to return after being sidelined for the Blues' last two matches.

Meanwhile, Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien was charged with gross unsporting conduct Thursday over a tackle on Liverpool's Dietmar Hamann in the Champions League.

Hamann described the tackle, which left him with stud marks on his shin, as the worst he had ever taken. The referee did not punish Essien during Tuesday's 0-0 draw, but the English Football Association asked FIFA and UEFA if they could take action.

FIFA rules say governing bodies can punish a player only if the referee did not see the incident.

UEFA's disciplinary body will rule on the case at its next meeting on December 15.

Henry determined

Thierry Henry wants Arsenal to show the kind of commitment absent from last week's defeat away to Bolton for the trip to Newcastle today.

The Gunners 2-0 reverse at the Reebok Stadium left them 14 points behind Chelsea and was another disappointing result away from their Highbury fortress.

So far this season the Gunners have dropped 16 out of a possible 21 points on their Premier League travels and France striker Henry said his side had to up their attitude if they were to enjoy more success outside north London.

"Sometimes you have to accept that, on the day, Bolton deserved the win. It was one of the first times this season that I think we have actually deserved to lose," admitted Henry who missed a penalty in the Gunners' goalless draw with Ajax on Wednesday.

"Now what we have to do is try to bounce back," added the France striker. "We need to try to grab something at Newcastle because that is going to be another very tough game."

Henry's fellow forward Jose Antonio Reyes has been ruled out of the trip to St. James' Park with a thigh injury while manager Arsene Wenger is unlikely to ask Belarussian winger Alexander Hleb to play twice in four days after two months out injured.