Chelsea arrive at Anfield as newly-crowned Premer League champions, with coach Jose Mourinho claiming the title success has taken the pressure off his players.
Mourinho said that whatever happened at Anfield tonight, his players were heroes for winning two trophies already this season.
“I think the pressure is on [Liverpool],” the Portuguese said.
“We’ll go back to London as heroes independent of the result on Tuesday. I can imagine Anfield Road if they lose, I can imagine what it would mean for their supporters.”
Although Liverpool stand 33 points behind Chelsea in the Premiership, the first leg demonstrated that there was little to choose between the sides in a one-off match.
For Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez, captain Steven Gerrard is the key player. Gerrard, who continues to be linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, has been in inspirational form this season.
“In my opinion Steve will be the key player for us. He can change a game. Against Middlesbrough you saw the kind of goal that he can score, and I am sure he will play well. He knows how important the game is for the club.”
Important as it is, however, Benítez hinted at a cautious approach after the 0-0 first-leg draw.
Liverpool stunned Juventus in the previous round by taking the game to the Italian team from the moment the opening whistle went. This time round with the tie finely balanced, Benitez will eschew the gung-ho in favour of a more cautious approach.
“What we can’t do now is lose our cool,” he said, before adding that the ideal scenario tonight would be to “score in the last minute and win 1-0”.
“If you start with a high tempo and score one goal, people can say, ‘OK it’s enough’ but it’s not enough against Chelsea.”
Liverpool could feature up to six changes from the side held 1-1 by Middlesbrough.
Dietmar Hamann is back from injury and could make his first start in six weeks replacing the suspended Xabi Alonso. Igor Biscan may also bolster the midfield with Steven Gerrard taking a more attacking role behind Milan Baros.
Chelsea’s main doubts concern wingers Arjen Robben (ankle) and Damien Duff (hamstring). Robben has scarcely played since February but, according to Mourinho, the Dutchman is “ready to risk it a little bit”. Duff lasted just a few minutes in training on the eve of the game before undergoing additional treatment.
The two managers involved here won the two European trophies last season. Jose Mourinho was the manager of Champions League winners Porto whilst Rafael Benitez won the Uefa Cup with his Valencia team.
Mourinho is aiming for a third successive European title having won the 2002/03 Uefa Cup and 2003/04 Champions League with Porto.
Benitez has appealed to his team’s supporters to help sway the balance tonight.
“Chelsea have the most expensive team in the world and a good manager,” he said. “But we have our supporters and Chelsea do not hold the balance, it is 50-50.”
Mourinho meanwhile, refuses to be intimidated.
“The fans don’t play – it’s eleven players each side,” said the former Porto man. “When we left London to come north, we came with two objectives: to go back as champions, and to go back [having reached] the Champions League final. We’ve done one already, the other we will see.”
Probable teamsLiverpool: Dudek, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Traore, Luis Garcia, Biscan, Gerrard, Hamann, Riise.
Chelsea: Cech, Johnson, Gallas, Terry, Carvalho, Robben, Makelele, Gudjohnsen, Tiago, Lampard, Cole, Drogba.