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Albert Riera promised Liverpool FC would play with both composure and passion as the five-time winners absorb the "beautiful pressure" of facing English rivals Chelsea FC in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Buoyed by goals in his last two outings, including a late winner for Spain against Turkey in Istanbul, the 26-year-old was in upbeat mood as he looked ahead to Wednesday's first leg at Anfield, although he says Liverpool's 2-0 and 1-0 victories against Chelsea in the Premier League this season will count for nothing when the sides lock horns in Europe for the fifth successive campaign. "We will play with our hearts as well as our heads. These kinds of matches in the Champions League are nothing like the Premier League," said Riera, who returns to the European reckoning having served a one-game ban when Liverpool defeated Real Madrid CF 4-0 on Matchday 8. "In the Premier League you play for 90 minutes to get the three points. In the Champions League, we have to play at Anfield, but also be thinking about the other match away as well. This game will be really important, but the away match will decide who makes the next step."
Many of the Liverpool players will have mixed memories of their emotional UEFA Champions League encounters with Chelsea over recent years, with two last-four victories to look back on in 2005 and 2007, plus the bitter disappointment of being denied a place in the final last season. For Riera, however, this is uncharted territory, having arrived from RCD Espanyol only in September. "I know this pairing has happened very often before and it will be really difficult for us, but likewise for them. If you want to get to the final you have to play against very good teams: Chelsea are one of those and if we want to continue we have to beat them."
With Liverpool in the last eight and just one point adrift of Manchester United FC at the Premier League summit, Riera believes that the mood in the camp could scarcely be better. "Sometimes we have been in the best position and sometimes a little bit behind Manchester United, but right now we are really, really confident," the winger said. "We are playing well and have to keep that going over the next month and a half until the end of the season. Personally, fighting for titles is really nice. This is the kind of pressure we want – it's beautiful pressure."
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