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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

CL Preview : Liverpool Vs Chelsea

Drogba: Liverpool Are No Threat

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba says he and his teammates are not at all worried about Liverpool scuppering their plans to lift this year's Champions League trophy. The Ivorian fully expects to be celebrating in Moscow next month.

Liverpool have eliminated Chelsea on the Blues' last two jaunts to the semi-finals but this year Drogba reckons his team will get their revenge en route to another piece of silverware. No Fear“We’ve nothing to be scared of," he told The Sun ahead of tonight's first leg at Anfield. “I’m not in the least bit worried about them. They may have beaten us in the last two Euro semis but this Chelsea team is perfectly capable of winning at Anfield. And how absolutely beautiful that would be!” Strong Start RequiredAnd by starting strongly tonight the striker believes Chelsea can extinguish the atmosphere and set things up perfectly to deliver the knock-out blow down in London. “The key is to get hold of the tie at Anfield from the start," he explained.

"And I think it’s also vital that this semi will be decided at Stamford Bridge, which neither of our two previous defeats to Liverpool have been. Outsmarting Benítez"Their manager Rafa Benítez is clever at putting out a team which is fresh for the Champions League because they have such a big squad," Drogba continued. "Just look at the way they were almost out at 2-2 against Arsenal in the quarter-final. But they shocked everyone with two goals in six minutes. But we’ve been visualising lifting the trophy for so many seasons. Now we believe we can make it reality.”

Gerrard: Stamford Bridge No Big Deal

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has every confidence in his side's ability to make it three Champions League finals in four years. Unlike other teams, the Reds have proved they don't crumble under intense European pressure. Gerrard also believes that Anfield will faze Chelsea far more than Stamford Bridge will his team.

Gerrard was surely referring to Chelsea's exploits in their three previous semi-finals, where the Blues have emerged empty handed every time and are yet to reach the European Cup final in their entire history. After being dumped out by underdogs Monaco in the 2004 competition came the two defeats at Anfield, where Chelsea collapsed in the second legs having kept clean sheets in the 2005 and 2007 home ties. ConfidenceBut where Chelsea fell playing their return legs away from home, Gerrard is determined to succeed.

“I have a lot of confidence in us doing what it takes to get to another final over the course of the 180 minutes," stated the midfielder. “This team never knows when it’s beaten. Some teams wilt and chuck in the towel when the going gets tough. That’s not the case with us. We’ll battle and scrap and believe in our ability to do whatever it takes - here at Anfield or down there on their patch - to progress in the European Cup. No Bigger PrizeIt’s the biggest trophy there is," the England international continued.

"Look at some of the clubs who have competed in it over the years without winning it. There’s not a player, manager or fan of any team in Europe who wouldn’t say the Champions League is the pinnacle in football. That’s one of the reasons we are desperate to be there when the destiny of the trophy is decided. Anfield Atmosphere GreaterA lot is being made of the fact that we’ve got to go down there and play the second leg," Gerrard added. "It’s suggested that it gives them a big advantage. But Stamford Bridge has nothing like the aura about it that Anfield does and it certainly won’t intimidate us in the slightest. If we have to go there to finish the job then we will.”


Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard has been passed for Tuesday’s game after picking up a neck injury in training. It remains to be seen whether Rafael Benítez will opt for the 4-4-2 used in the home quarter-final leg against Arsenal or stick to the mostly-used 4-2-3-1. Most clues will probably come from who didn’t play against Fulham.

Likely XI (4-2-3-1): Reina – Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Aurélio – Mascherano, Alonso – Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel – Torres


Frank Lampard will return having missed the last two Chelsea games on compassionate leave. He will start since Michael Essien is suspended. The Blues should be relatively fresh having had five days to prepare for this game and aren’t dealing with a lengthy casualty list. Wright-Phillips and Malouda will likely compete for a spot down the wing with Joe Cole set to get the other berth. Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack will play an part
Likely XI (4-1-2-2-1): Cech – Belletti, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole – Makélélé – Ballack, Lampard – J Cole, Kalou – Drogba
Liverpool : Reina, Arbeloa, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Skrtel, Riise, Aurelio, Babel, Benayoun, Gerrard, Mascherano, Alonso, Lucas, Voronin, Crouch, Torres, Kuyt, Pennant, Itandje.

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


Liverpool – Fernando Torres

The Liverpool striker scored a beauty of a goal against Chelsea earlier in the season, a fine way to get off the mark at Anfield, and will he hoping for the same again. The Spanish striker netted in both previous knock-out rounds of this year’s Champions League tournament and is bang in form having notched in Liverpool’s last seven home matches.

Chelsea – Frank Lampard

With Michael Essien out, Lampard will need to be a tower of strength at Anfield on Tuesday night. Whether he's mentally up to it after missing the last two games for family reasons, only time will tell. The England international has netted twice against the Reds already this season, breaking the deadlock with a deflected effort in the Carling Cup quarter-final and slotting home that controversial penalty at Anfield back in August.


In theory Liverpool’s freshness having rested their stars at the weekend and the fact that they cannot bank on a result at the Bridge mean this encounter should be more open than previous ones. Whether that holds true we’ll have to see, but I think Chelsea may be the happier side at full-time.

Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea


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