Saturday, December 9, 2023

Benitez fears loss of ´Anfield effect´

Rafael Benitez admits the loss of “the Anfield effect” will be a huge blow to his Liverpool side in the Champions League semi-final with Chelsea.

Benitez’s team have beaten the west London club at this stage of the competition twice in the last three seasons.

But on both those occasions Liverpool enjoyed the advantage of playing the second leg at home and the legendary Anfield atmosphere was acknowledged as a major factor in both victories.

This time however, the teams will meet on Merseyside for Tuesday’s first leg, placing a greater onus on Benitez’s side to claim an early advantage in the tie.

The Spaniard accepted this will force him to adopt a different strategy as Liverpool aim to reach a third Champions League final in four years.

“It could be different to last year,” Benitez said.

“The key to us has been Anfield in the last year. In the last game against Arsenal you could see a big difference. But we will try and do something important in the first game and the second one will be easier.

“If you talk about Chelsea you need to score some goals and don’t concede. Not conceding is important but you need to score goals or will have chances.”

Liverpool have once again performed better during their European campaign than in another underwhelming domestic season.

They have beaten both Inter Milan and Arsenal during the knock-out stages but Benitez claims Chelsea will provide an even sterner test.

“Chelsea have a better balance and are stronger in defence,” he added.

“They are not as offensive as Arsenal but stronger in defence. The challenge for us is hard. The difference now is we are in the semi-finals so it will be difficult.”

And Benitez insists Chelsea are just as formidable under Avram Grant as they were under Jose Mourinho last season despite the heavy criticism directed at the current Chelsea manager recently.

“I haven’t seen too much difference to the team we beat last year,” Benitez said.

“I have said before: Avram Grant is doing a good job. They are playing well. They are strong, they have balance. They are good in attack, good on the counter-attack, good on set pieces and good in defence.

“They have good players and this will be as difficult as a year ago. I don’t think we are favourites.

“When you talk about Chelsea, they are toward the top of the league and in the race for the title so, they are a very good team and normally, I don’t need to use the word.

“They can be favourites but is it not important for me, who the favourites are.”


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