Champions League semi-final first leg
Kick-off 19-45 (BST)
Two familiar foes renew hostilities at Anfield tonight when Liverpool play host to Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals for the third time in four seasons.
Chelsea have old scores to settle after two previous 1-0 defeats at Liverpool denied them their first appearance in a Champions League final. In six meetings between these clubs in this competition, only three goals have been scored and Tuesday’s encounter is expected to be just as tight with neither side renowned for throwing caution to the wind.
Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez conceded that he is not expecting an open game tonight.
“We have experience in Europe, so if we can get a good result here, maybe it will be easier, but we know it will be tough anyway,” said Benitez.
“I don’t see it being a very, very open game because they are good in defence and we are good in defence.”
“We prefer more than one goal but at the end of this kind of game, between two top sides at this level, a small difference can be a massive difference.
“We are playing well at home and away, we have confidence, but we know Chelsea are a very good team defensively so it will be difficult.
“We need to be patient, not make mistakes, keep control of the game and create chances.
“We know it’s difficult to score there and it will be important to score here and not concede.”
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard has recovered from the neck injury that forced him to miss Liverpool’s win at Fulham last weekend. The result effectively guaranteed a fourth-place finish and Champions League football for next season. Defender Sami Hyypia and midfielder Javier Mascherano picked up knocks at Fulham but should be fit to face Chelsea.
Chelsea maintained their bid to catch Manchester United with a 1-0 win on Merseyside against Everton last Thursday, thanks to a Michael Essien goal.
Essien is suspended for the first leg but Frank Lampard returns to the squad after missing their last two league matches after spending time with his mother who has been suffering from pneumonia. Midfielder Michael Ballack is expected to have recovered from a hamstring strain, while striker Didier Drogba has overcome a knee problem.
Chelsea boss Avram Grant played down the significance of the previous semi-finals between the two sides and stressed to his players that they had the chance to “make history” by becoming the first Chelsea side to reach the Champions League final.
“It’s very exciting,” said the Israeli. “We did everything to come to this point and it was not easy. The first game we drew against Rosenborg at home, then we needed to play against Valencia away when Valencia were on top form and everybody thought that we would lose against them. We share the same desire to be in the final.
“We can make history and we will concentrate on this and not about anything else,” he said.
“We lost here twice but that is history, and now we can create it. That is what is important.
“It will not be easy because Liverpool, as we know, are experts in the Champions League, but I am very optimistic.”