Champions League semi-final second leg (First leg: 0-1)
Rafael Benitez is convinced the Anfield crowd will have a huge part to play when his Liverpool side meet Chelsea in tonight’s Champions League second leg.
With Liverpool looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg at Stamford Bridge, the Reds’ said the Anfield fans are the true “special ones”.
The Kop were at their most vocal when Liverpool emerged with a 1-0 victory against Chelsea in the semi-final two years ago, and Benítez is expecting more of the same from them this time round.
“We will try to use the influence of our people and the atmosphere will be really important,” he said.
“I am sure that they [Chelsea] will see Anfield is very, very difficult for them. I know they have had this experience before. You can say it’s not really a problem but you know it will be a problem for them. Our supporters – they are the special ones.”
Meanwhile, Mourinho, who has lost Andrii Shevchenko to a groin injury on the eve of the game, has promised not to sit back and try to protect a one-goal lead.
“We will attack,” he said. “We know if we don’t concede goals, we are in the final so of course that is an objective, but we also know that if we score that is a big advantage.
“You cannot defend perfectly for 90 minutes so I think a very good way to play this game would be to scare the opponents.”
Liverpool rested most of their first team in Saturday’s 2-1 Premiership defeat at Portsmouth, while Chelsea suffered a huge blow to their title aspirations when they were held 2-2 at home by Bolton.
“The opponent is at home,” Mourinho noted. “They are a team who have had one week to rest and prepare for this game against another team that had to play two days ago and had to fight physically and mentally in the title race, so I don’t see our team to be favourites.”
Michael Essien returns from suspension for Chelsea, and the Ghanaian midfielder is expected to fill in at centre-back following the withdrawal through injury of Ricardo Carvalho. Michael Ballack has undergone ankle surgery which will keep him out for the rest of the season, so Mourinho will be forced to juggle his resources in what is arguably Chelsea’s most important game of the season to date.
The Portuguese coach predicted that Liverpool’s line-up will be “Peter Crouch plus ten” implying that his opponents will target the perceived weakness in the air at the heart of the Chelsea defence in the absence of Carvalho.
Benitez was giving nothing away about his starting eleven, although he promised his side would pour forward in numbers towards Cech’s goal, playing with a “high tempo.
Pepe Reina; Steve Finnan, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger, Alvaro Arbeloa; Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, John Arne Riise; Peter Crouch, Dirk Kuyt.
Petr Cech; Paulo Ferreira, Michael Essien, John Terry, Ashley Cole; John Obi Mikel, Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole; Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou.