Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Liverpool wary of Chelsea Champions League backlash

Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher believes Chelsea will be desperate for revenge when battle commences at Anfield on Tuesday in the Champions League semi-finals.

The two English Premier League sides clash at the last four stage for the third time in four years, Liverpool having triumphed on both previous occasions in extremely close and controversial encounters.

Tuesday’s first leg on Merseyside looks set to be another classic, with Carragher predicting that the Blues will come out fighting from the first whistle.

“We have beaten them three times in semi-finals when you include the FA Cup in 2006, so they will be desperate to turn us over,” said the defender.

“Hopefully we can keep that run going. But we realise they are doing well at the moment and it will be difficult to stop them.

“It will be as close as the last two Euro clashes. It’s always been that way against them and I wouldn’t expect it to be any different.”

The 2005 semi-finals saw a scoreless draw at Stamford Bridge followed by a highly disputed goal for Liverpool’s Luis Garcia in the second leg, which many felt William Gallas had prevented from crossing the goal-line.

And if that was not thrilling enough, in the 2007 semi-finals, Liverpool went through 4-1 on penalties at Anfield, each side having won their home legs 1-0.

Victory for either Reds manager Rafael Benitez or Blues boss Avram Grant in this encounter could be enough to preserve their jobs, with both reportedly under pressure from their respective clubs’ owners.

“I don’t think Chelsea under Grant are much different than Chelsea with (Jose) Mourinho — except maybe at a press conference,” said Benitez, referring to the Israeli’s bizarre near-silence following Thursday’s 1-0 win at Everton, a game the Spaniard watched.

“They looked pretty much the same as always,” he said.

“When you talk about Champions League or cup competitions it is just one-off games and perhaps the manager can do something with tactics or the style of football to make a difference.

“But when you talk about a competition that lasts nine months you need a big squad and maybe Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal are a little bit better than us there.

“Grant is doing his job well if you look at their results.”

Grant, for his part, is wary of Benitez’s knack of pulling off cup victories, despite Liverpool’s perennial struggle to mount a challenge for the Premier League title.

“I know he knows how to play against big teams and I like him as a person and a manager, but we will give him a battle this time,” the former Israel boss vowed.

“First we need to score one goal away, it is always a target at this level to score away, because it is more than one goal, but the target is to win the two games.

“If you play the first game at home and make a good result and the other team doesn’t score, you can always score away so sometimes it is better with the first game at home,” he told the club’s website.

Benitez made eight changes for Saturday’s 2-0 win at Fulham, resting key players such as Carragher, captain Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres with Tuesday’s clash in mind.

Meanwhile, Chelsea’s match on Thursday against Everton — a television-oriented switch which upset many — gave them more time to prepare for the Champions League.

Both sides could be missing key players.

For Chelsea, striker Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack may miss out, while the Germany captain’s fellow midfielder Frank Lampard has been absent recently due to family matters.

Liverpool skipper Gerrard has a neck problem, though centre-half Sami Hyppia and midfielder Javier Mascherano should shake off injuries sustained Saturday in time for the Anfield clash.

Liverpool have made much of “the Anfield effect” in the pre-match build-up, hailing the electric atmosphere created at their home ground on European match nights.

And their striker Fernando Torres is eager to raise the roof by scoring, having tasted the aura following their 4-2 win over Arsenal in the quarter-final second leg.

“The emotion I felt after the Arsenal game was very, very strong. I have never felt like that before,” the Spain forward said.

“I was almost in tears when the crowd were singing.

“If that was a quarter-final, I can’t imagine what it will be like playing Chelsea.

“Without doubt, these are the biggest matches of my career.

“I know football means so much and can give everyone strong feelings but it’s still a new experience for me. I scored my first important Liverpool goal against Chelsea — and I want to do it again on Tuesday.”



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