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Chelsea hold the aces ahead of Liverpool return
April 29, 2008 11:27 IST
Chelsea hold the aces going into the second leg of their Champions League semi-final at home to Liverpool on Wednesday.
Liverpool may have the tradition and five European Cups to their name but John Arne Riise's own goal deep into stoppage time in the first leg at Anfield last Tuesday handed Chelsea a priceless away goal and a 1-1 draw.
Chelsea start as favourites to reach the final for the first time and as long as Avram Grant's men stop Liverpool from finding the net they will face Manchester United [Images] or Barcelona in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow [Images] on May 21.
Liverpool and Chelsea, meeting in their third Champions League semi-final in four seasons, will be facing each other for the 20th time in all competitions in that period.
The Anfield club won both previous semis in 2005 and 2007 but Chelsea will be in good spirits after their battling 2-1 win over Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday kept alive their hopes of a double.
Chelsea also have an excellent recent record over Liverpool, who have not scored in eight visits to Stamford Bridge since Rafa Benitez took charge at Anfield in 2004.
The Londoners have turned Stamford Bridge into a fortress, having not lost a domestic match since February 2004 and any game since losing 2-1 to Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League first knockout round in February 2006.
Lampard resumed training on Sunday, according to media reports, but even if he declares himself ready to return, Grant might be tempted to retain the midfielders who performed so well against United, led by two-goal German Michael Ballack [Images].
Liverpool are a tougher proposition in Europe than in domestic matches and Benitez will take a rested squad to London [Images], having made nine changes from the side that played Chelsea last week for Saturday's 2-2 Premier League draw at Birmingham City.
Fernando Torres, who has scored 30 goals in 43 matches since joining Liverpool at the start of the season, poses the biggest danger while Steven Gerrard will look to add to the 21 he has netted from midfield.
But as long as the hosts do not concede a goal Chelsea will be bound for Moscow, a thought to delight their billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
Chelsea: 1-Petr Cech; 5-Michael Essien, 6-Ricardo Carvalho, 26-John Terry, 3-Ashley Cole; 4-Claude Makelele, 13-Michael Ballack, 8-Frank Lampard; 10-Joe Cole, 11-Didier Drogba, 21-Salomon Kalou
Liverpool: 25-Pepe Reina; 17-Alvaro Arbeloa, 23-Jamie Carragher, 37-Martin Skrtel, 6-John Arne Riise; 18-Dirk Kuyt, 20-Javier Mascherano, 14-Xabi Alonso, 8-Steven Gerrard, 19-Ryan Babel [Images]; 9-Fernando Torres
Referee: Roberto Rosetti (Italy [Images])
UEFA Champions League 2007-08: The Complete Coverage