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Saturday, October 25, 2008


Rafael Benitez has today revealed that both Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso will be fit to face Chelsea on Sunday - but Robbie Keane remains a doubt for the clash at Stamford Bridge.

The midfield duo were both involved in training at Melwood this morning and now look set to retain their place in the side for the top-of-the-table match with Luiz Felipe Scolari's men.

It was a major boost for Benitez, who will make a late decision on Keane, after the Ireland international missed training with the pelvis injury sustained against Atletico Madrid.

Benitez also revealed that Fernando Torres will definitely not feature against the Blues and remains on course to make his comeback from the hamstring injury he picked up on international duty, against Portsmouth on Wednesday.

"Xabi and Steven both trained today and should be okay," confirmed the manager. "It wasn't a hard session but I am confident they can play at Chelsea.

"We're still not sure about Robbie. He didn't train today and we will have to see how he is tomorrow. We will make a late decision.

"Fernando won't be involved. He is recovering well and should be fit again soon, but we have to be careful with the player."


Xabi Alonso believes Liverpool can be the team to finally end Chelsea's unbeaten home record on Sunday.
The Blues have not lost a league match at Stamford Bridge since Arsenal took away a 2-1 victory in February 2004.

However, Liverpool are defending their own impressive stat - 16 games without defeat in all competitions.

That run includes Rafa Benitez's first league victory over Manchester United, and Alonso is confident he and his teammates can now break a similar hoodoo in an arena where the Reds have not prevailed since January 2004.

"Beating United in our first big test of the season was very important for our confidence and this is another big test for us," said the midfielder.

"We know Chelsea have a great record at home in the Premier League - they haven't been beaten for four seasons. It is going to be really tough but we honestly feel we are ready to get a good result there.

"We won't be going to Stamford Bridge with any fear. We respect them as a very good side but we are confident in our own ability and we believe we can win.

"They have shown great form in recent weeks and we expect a tough game, but we go into every game expecting to win now and Sunday will be no different.

"Hopefully we can be the team to end their unbeaten home record."

If Liverpool do gain maximum points on Sunday, it would put them three points clear of Chelsea at the summit of the Barclays Premier League.

"Being the first team to beat Chelsea at home in the league after all this time would put us in a great position and it would send out an important statement," added Alonso. "But we have to beat them first before we can think about things like this.

"Winning at Stamford Bridge could spur us on for the rest of the season but even if we win it would still be too early in the season to say too much about winning the title. There is still a long way to go."

Alonso and co go into this weekend's fixture having won from behind five times this season - Middlesbrough, Man Utd, Marseille, Man City and Wigan.

However, the Spanish ace knows Liverpool would have a tough task repeating the trick against Phil Scolari's men.

"What we cannot afford to do against Chelsea is start as slowly as we have done in some games," he said. "We need to concentrate fully for 90 minutes because the quality of their players means they can punish you at any time.

"Fernando Torres will be a big loss against Chelsea but we know we can manage the situation - we have to. We have more strength in depth and more confidence now than we have had before.

"After the results we have had this season we are right to be confident."

Sunday's trip to south-west London is the first since the Champions League semi-final defeat in April.

The memories may be relatively fresh, but Alonso insists this is no revenge mission.

"What happened against Chelsea last season won't have an influence on this game, I am sure of that," said the 26-year-old.

"This is a different season, there are different players on both sides, a different manager at Chelsea and we can only focus on what happens during this game.

"We won't prepare for this game thinking about the Champions League semi-final or by using that for extra motivation.

"I don't think you can compare this game with what happened at Stamford Bridge last season. This is a new season, both teams have new targets to concentrate on and, because of that, anything can happen on Sunday."


Rafa Benitez today told his players that nothing less than a 'perfect 90 minutes' will suffice if Liverpool are to end Chelsea's astonishing home record.

The Spaniard accepts that too often this season his side have failed to perform in the first half, meaning they've had to come from behind five times.

This was reversed against Atletico on Wednesday when the Reds led at the break only to leave Spain with a point.

Benitez knows this won't be good enough on Sunday against a side unbeaten at home in the league for nearly five years.

"In Madrid we played well in the first half and then it was surprising to see us lose some control after the break," said the boss.

"Every manager is looking for the perfect 90 minutes and so this weekend I want to see us start as we did in Spain but then keep the same level throughout the game.

"If they score first it will be really difficult for us so we have to do everything perfectly from the first whistle. When we get a chance we have to take it because we know they will have chances as well.

"They have a lot of good players playing good football. They're passing the ball really well and scoring lots of goals. But we're going there with confidence, looking to work hard, play well and produce some nice football."

Liverpool go into the game without the hamstrung Fernando Torres, while Robbie Keane is a doubt with a pelvis injury.

Benitez insists his team is capable of winning without their Ballon D'Or contender.

Arsenal and United are very strong teams. When you talk about the favourites you have to talk about them, and hopefully you will also talk about us at the end of the season.

"I think we can beat Chelsea without Torres," said the Spaniard. "I think we have enough quality. We have new players with a very good mentality and a lot of confidence, so I think we have enough to beat a very good team like Chelsea.

"We will go to Stamford Bridge to try to win and if we do, perfect. If not, we'll try not to lose and that will still be positive because we'll still be unbeaten."

Benitez has faced Chelsea 20 times since arriving in England in 2004 - more than any other team.

Phil Scolari is the third Blues manager he has faced in this time, a man he believes has brought a more attacking impetus to SW6.

"He is improving the squad and the team. They have more or less the same ideas but they're maybe more offensive now," said Benitez.

"I think they are a good team. I will not say they are better now because I don't want to start a war of words! But they are a good team and it's clear they are more offensive."

Both sides go into the game unbeaten on 20 points, four above Arsenal in fourth and six clear of champions Manchester United.

Not that Benitez is putting money on a two horse race.

"Clearly everyone is talking about us this year, and Chelsea too. But we know there's a long way to go," he said.

"Arsenal and United are very strong teams. When you talk about the favourites you have to talk about them, and hopefully you will also talk about us at the end of the season.

"Arsenal have quality and young players, and I think they can improve throughout the season. They will be there for sure."

Meanwhile, Benitez has backed countryman Juande Ramos to steer Spurs out of the relegation zone despite the Londoners gaining just two points from a possible 24.

"They won the Carling Cup and the team was good, and the team is still good, so I am sure they'll be higher in the league," said the gaffer.

"People talk about relegation - I don't think so. They have enough quality."