José Mourinho is hoping his record of having never lost a semi-final continues when his Chelsea side meet Liverpool in the all-Premiership Champions League semi-final at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho has never lost at this stage of any competition and wants to prolong that record so his players avoid a repeat of last year’s defeat to Monaco.
Mourinho said: “I hope to do it [against Liverpool] more because of the players, more because of the club because they have never done it before and because of Mr [Roman] Abramovich and the way he has created this fantastic situation for Chelsea.
“The key is not to panic, not to think we have to win the first game at home,” he added.
“I am not thinking about myself, I am thinking more about the players because they lost in the semi-final last year and I would like to make my little contribution to take them to Istanbul.”
Chelsea have beaten Liverpool three times this season, once in the English League Cup final, twice in the Premiership, and as the dominant club in English football, start as clear favourites. However, the Mourinho is taking nothing for granted.
“If we don’t win, we don’t win,” he said. “We can then win the second game. I have never lost a semi-final in my life. One day I will have to, I know. Last year I was saying that I had never lost a final and then I went and lost the Portuguese Cup final.”
Mourinho also acknowledged that he has found a worthy adversary in Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez.
“I believe that English teams have to adapt to European football in certain matches,” Mourinho added.
“English managers are very good but maybe my [expertise] and Rafael’s is in playing these ties in a more tactical way. It helps a little. The way Liverpool performed at Juventus shows clearly the way a team can be organised to get the result it needs.”
Mourinho only selection quandary is whether to start with winger Arjen Robben, who has just returned from injury. That decision may be made easier by the news that Damien Duff is suffering from a tight hamstring. With the exception of an FA Cup tie with Scunthorpe the Irishman has appeared in every fixture for the club since a Premiership game against Aston Villa on September 11
Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez denied that the three defeats his team had suffered against Chelsea, will have a bearing on tonight’s game.
“We have played well in the last two games against them and we can win,” he said.
“If you remember the games we played against Chelsea, we lost by one goal in all the games,” he said. “The last time we were winning for almost 80 minutes. Analyse these things and we will have real possibilities.
“Of course, every manager has a solution to win a game on a blackboard. You can pinpoint weaknesses here and there, but against Chelsea you need to do everything perfectly if you are to beat them because they have such a good team.
“It’s not a question of psychology, it’s a question of being prepared, playing well and being compact as a team. We have a good team and I think we have the confidence.”
There was relief for Benitez with the news that Milan Baros is fit to play. The Czech Republic striker limped off during a bruising encounter with Crystal Palace at the weekend, but he was able to train ahead of tonight’s game.
Harry Kewell, a forgotten man at Anfield, has returned to some kind of fitness and he will take his place on the bench tonight.