Home > Sports > Football >
Chelsea prepare for Liverpool challenge
April 26, 2005 11:07 IST
With three wins already this season over Liverpool, Jose Mourinho's Chelsea are hot favourites at home to come out on top in their all-English Champions League semi-final.
In Europe, however, the nouveau-riche London upstarts enjoy none of Liverpool's reputation, earned with five European Cup finals and four triumphs.
A surprise win over Juventus in the quarter-finals cemented Liverpool's credentials in Europe and manager Rafael Benitez says it gave his players back the confidence that they could beat Chelsea.
"Juventus was important because it made the players believe we can win games when we're not expected to," Benitez said at the weekend.
Chelsea beat Liverpool 1-0 in both their Premier League games and 3-2 in the League Cup final in February.
"It's a Champions League game and we don't want to think about it in terms of the Premiership. Our idea is to approach the game with the same mentality as usual. We are playing well, we are not afraid. We can beat anyone," Benitez said.
While Liverpool lost at the weekend to relegation-threatened Crystal Palace, runaway leaders Chelsea earned three more points against neighbours Fulham.
They are on the brink of winning the English league championship for the first time in 50 years and with Roman Abramovich's billions behind them look likely to be a force in English football for seasons to come.
Wins over Barcelona and Bayern Munich, playing some of the most exciting football of the competition, have installed them as second favourites to AC Milan for the Champions League crown.
The return of fleet-footed winger Arjen Robben, injured for almost all of the last 10 weeks, is a boost for Chelsea, who have begun to feel the pace of the season they have dominated since November, losing just one Premier League game.
The London side have looked more vulnerable at the back recently, letting in nine goals in their last four European games after building their reputation on defence.
Injuries to first-choice full backs Wayne Bridge and Paulo Ferreira have not helped, with central defender William Gallas filling in on the left and the sometimes hot-headed Glen Johnson on the right.
Mourinho returns to the bench after a two-match suspension over remarks he made about referee Anders Frisk and Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard during the Nou Camp match in February.
In his presence, Chelsea are unlikely to fall into disarray as they did in the dying minutes in Munich when they conceded twice.
Joe Cole, scorer in both of Chelsea's 1-0 Premier League wins, said his side would be cautious after last year's debacle under Claudio Ranieri when they lost at the same stage to less Monaco.
"It's a great spectacle for English football, two big clubs with so much at stake... the carrot is there for us, the final of the Champions League. It's what dreams are made of," he said.
"And if we can keep the form we're showing at the moment and keep the momentum going, we'll be all right."