Champions League semi-final 1st leg
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes his side are at a significant disadvantage when they meet Liverpool tonight in Champions League semi-final first leg.
As the London club pursue an unprecedented Quadruple this season, Mourinho believes the odds are stacked against his side.
“It won’t be a fair fight because the conditions are different,” said Mourinho.
“When Liverpool were in Portugal preparing for their game with Barcelona we played three matches including the League Cup final. Steven Gerrard did not play in Liverpool’s last game – do you think Gerrard and Frank Lampard have the same conditions to compete?”
Apart from Michael Essien who is suspended, Chelsea are also without Michael Ballack for tonight’s game against a team who knocked them out at this stage two years ago en route to lifting their fifth European Cup in Istanbul. Mourinho also has concerns over the fitness of central defender Ricardo Carvalho, although he did train on Tuesday.
Mourinho noted that their opponents have an impressive record in knockout football.
“I am not a statistics man but in the last three years I think Chelsea have 55 or 60 points more than them,” he said. “We have to praise Liverpool for what they have done in knockout competitions, they have won the Champions League and the FA Cup and they are in another Champions League semi-final.
“We do think we can win but if they only play in one competition for half a season then they arrive at this crucial moment in a great situation. They had an easy group whereas Chelsea had a group containing Werder Bremen and Barcelona and then two games with Porto and two with Valencia.”
Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez denied that his side’s recent schedule would have a bearing on tonight’s game.
“We are in a similar position. It is two good teams against each other,” he said. “I don’t like to play this game of saying ‘You have fresh legs or you have been playing less important games’. We are confident because we are playing well and scoring goals but we know we are facing a very good team. Chelsea always spend big money on good players. They are in finals because they have good players and a good team.
“I am learning many things I didn’t know,” added Benitez. “That Chelsea have injury problems, but so do we.
“That they’re tired and we’re playing less important games. They’ve spent a lot of money over the last few years and they’ve a big squad.
Benitez welcomes back right-back Steve Finnan who has recovered from a neck injury, but other than long-term absentee Luis Garcia, the former Valencia coach has no fresh injury concerns.
Petr Cech; Lassana Diarra, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry, Ashley Cole; Shaun Wright-Phillips, Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole; Didier Drogba, Andriy Shevchenko.
Pepe Reina; Steve Finnan, Daniel Agger, Jamie Carragher, John Arne Riise; Steven Gerrard, Mohamed Sissoko, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso; Dirk Kuyt, Peter Crouch.