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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Champions League Semi Final Preview

Chelsea Were Lucky - Benitez

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has continued to fan the flames ahead of his side's crunch clash in the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea.

After drawing the first leg 1-1, Rafa is keen to play the 'second half' of this tie, insisting his team are as well-prepared as ever."The team is ready. We are focused, concentrated and have confidence," declared Benitez. "I think that we were prepared last time. Now we have half-time in the tie and we will be prepared for Wednesday."Though impressed with Chelsea's weekend win over Manchester United, Benitez insists it will not have too great an impact on Wednesday's game."It was a good game between two good teams and I thought Chelsea played really well in the first-half," said Benitez. "In the second-half they had some problems but I think it is a different game in a different competition with different teams. He also doubted whether Chelsea could snatch a league-Champions League double, though he was full of praise for Avram Grant's work at Chelsea."It could be difficult for them," he mused. "They have had four days between the last game and Wednesday so I think they will have enough time to prepare for this game and after that they can be focused because they have a good squad. "I always say the same, that I think he [Avram Grant] is doing a good job. He is in a very good position in the league and in the Champions League so I think he is doing a good job and I think he is a person with experience."


He also felt Chelsea were a little lucky to come away with the result, but is confident he can break his Stamford Bridge curse, as he has not managed a goal at Chelsea's ground during his time in charge of Liverpool."I think Chelsea will be analysing everything and I think they will try to take advantage of the away goal," he said."Sometimes these things happen, so you must just look towards the next game. You know the result so you must try to prepare the next game properly. We know we need to score so we will try to score goals. "[Not scoring at Anfield] is something we can change tomorrow."I don't know how many games they are without losing. When you talk about Chelsea over the past four or five years, they are a team that are progressing and improving so I think it is normal. The majority of teams have problems there. "I remember the last game at Stamford Bridge when we had chances and I think that we were the better team, but, sometimes you cannot reflect these things if you do not score. "It's another competition, it's totally different. The mentality, the atmosphere, the time of kick-off - everything will be different."

Judgement Day

The former Valencia boss has been under much scrutiny this season in a string of dramatic boardroom sagas, but insists he is not worrying about how he will be judged if the season ends trophyless."I'm not really worried about how the season will be judged," he shrugged. "It is more about how can we progress in this competition and can we feel happy with ourselves after the game."I think it is important to know we have guaranteed fourth position. That has been the key over the past few years and now we must try to go to the final. "Success for us is to win trophies. But when you cannot, you must try to do the right things, it is as simple as that."

Chet Winter

Torres Eager For Terry-Carvalho Test

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres is eager to test his mettle against John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho on Wednesday night as the Reds take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Torres, who is the second-highest Red scorer in the Champions League this season, told of his excitement ahead of the second leg."I have wanted to play against guys like John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho for a long time, and they do me an honour by giving me a tough time," he said. "Now I'm going to try to respond to them by getting a couple of goals against Chelsea. "Everybody dreams about playing in the Champions League, and in the space of a few months I have gone from watching it on TV to having a part in it and I already have plenty of memories. "My goal at the San Siro when we beat Inter Milan 1-0, the 4-0 win over Marseille, and my goal in the 4-2 win over Arsenal – now it is the turn of Chelsea."Professor Rafa?Torres has established himself as a Premier League star in his very first season away from Atlético Madrid, with his coach coming in for much praise as a result.He said of Rafael Benítez, "He calculates everything, including runs and flights of the ball, and studies it on his computer. "If he tells you to stand five feet from the penalty spot, it's not in your best interests to be six feet from it! "He'll show you that the extra distance makes the difference between a goal and a missed chance – and it has worked for me. "The proof for me is I had never scored a club hat-trick in my life before joining Liverpool, but I've since got three, against Reading, Middlesbrough and West Ham. "Rafa explained everything to me before I even signed – how we would play, and what our aims were. He even gave me a work schedule in advance. "He has great powers of seduction, and makes crazy demands on us. At the end of training, when we are all tired, he can still make us repeat routines 20 or 30 times."Healthy CompetitionThe Spanish international concluded by defending Benítez's much-maligned rotation system, contrasting it positively with the Atleti approach.He said, "Nobody is sure of his first-team place at Liverpool. Rafa is merciless, and anyone who wants to play in matches has to earn the right in training. "It is different to Spain, where only an earthquake can change the pecking order at a club. "You soon learn the Liverpool way of doing things. If you train like an amateur you end up dropped to the bench for the next game."

Steve Michaels



Midfielder and top scorer Frank Lampard looks set to return, having played in the 1-1 draw at Anfield but missed Saturday's 2-1 win over Manchester United following the death of his mother Pat from pneumonia.

Squad: Cech, Hilario, Belletti, Ferreira, Carvalho, Alex, Ben-Haim, Terry, A Cole, Bridge, J Cole, Ballack, Essien, Lampard, Wright-Phillips, Malouda, Kalou, Anelka, Drogba, Shevchenko, Mikel, Makelele.


Norwegian full-back John Arne Riise, who scored that injury-time own goal after coming on as a substitute in the first leg, could replace injured Fabio Aurelio, the Brazilian defender having been ruled out by a groin injury.Benitez could also recall Sami Hyypia to centre-back, switch Jamie Carragher to right-back and Alvaro Arbeloa to the left - or recall Steve Finnan to one of the full-back berths.Striker Fernando Torres is sure to start after being rested for Saturday's draw with Birmingham. Peter Crouch, who has scored when used recently, could partner Torres at the expense of Ryan Babel.

Squad: Reina, Carragher, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Skrtel, Riise, Finnan, Babel, Benayoun, Gerrard, Lucas, Alonso, Mascherano, Pennant, Crouch, Kuyt, Torres, Voronin, Itandje.


Kalou in fact is a former team-mate of Liverpool's Dutch striker, Dirk Kuyt. The two were together at Feyenoord in Rotterdam between 2004 and 2006 and struck up a productive partnership. Kuyt netted 51 League goals and Kalou 35 during their two seasons together.As for Liverpool's Israeli midfielder, Yossi Benayoun, he played for Chelsea boss Avram Grant when the pair were employed by Maccabi Haifa in the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons. They won two League titles together, and Benayoun later also played under Grant for the Israel national team.Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka spent the second half of the 2001-02 season on loan to Liverpool, scoring four goals in 20 League appearances for the Reds and professing disappointment when then manager Gerard Houllier chose not sign his compatriot on a permanent deal. Andriy Shevchenko may feature in a cameo role but he will be particularly keen to inflict defeat on Liverpool. The Chelsea striker's penalty for AC Milan in the shoot-out at the end of the 2005 Champions League final was saved by Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek, sealing the Reds' amazing comeback against the Rossoneri and allowing Steven Gerrard to hoist the trophy.


If past clashes are a reliable guide, this will be tense, incredibly tight and unlikely to be laden with goals. The subtle changes this time around are that the second leg is at Chelsea not Anfield, and that Liverpool will have to go out to try and win the game. Both camps have been making the expected pre-match noises, but when the match kicks off it will be decided on the margins, by a flash of brilliance or momentary lapse. It is almost impossible to pick a winner, but Chelsea may just have a jot more momentum after Saturday, and have forgotten how to lose at the Bridge. They might just shade it and give Grant the satisfaction of going one better than Mourinho.

Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool

Graham Lister


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