Rafael Benítez says Liverpool FC fans are "the special ones" and they are going to make life "very, very difficult" for José Mourinho's Chelsea FC on Tuesday.
The red half of Liverpool is buzzing with nervous anticipation ahead of Chelsea FC's visit for the UEFA Champions League semi-final on Tuesday, and manager Rafael Benítez is convinced the Anfield crowd will have a massive impact on the second leg as Liverpool FC attempt to retrieve a 1-0 deficit. Opposite number José Mourinho might have other ideas but Benítez said Liverpool's fans are the true "special ones".
The Kop roared Liverpool on to what has become a legendary 1-0 victory against Chelsea in the semi-final two years ago, with Luis García's winner coming off the back of a tidal wave of passionate support, and Benítez is expecting more of the same from the locals this time round. "We will try to use the influence of our people and the atmosphere will be really important," the Spanish coach 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."
'We will attack'
For his part Mourinho, who has lost Andriy Shevchenko to a groin problem picked up in training, has promised not to sit back and try to protect a one-goal lead as Chelsea bid to set up a showdown in Athens against either Manchester United FC or AC Milan. "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."
Already assured of UEFA Champions League football next season, Liverpool rested most of their first team in Saturday's 2-1 Premiership defeat at Portsmouth FC, while Chelsea suffered a huge blow to their title hopes as they were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Bolton Wanderers FC, leaving them five points behind leaders Manchester United with three games to play. Mourinho said: "The opponent is at home. 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, with a likely role at centre-back alongside captain John Terry as Ricardo Carvalho sustained a knee injury against Bolton. Michael Ballack has undergone ankle surgery which will keep him out for the rest of the campaign, so Mourinho will be forced to make the most of his enviable resources. The Portuguese coach predicted that Liverpool's lineup will be "Peter Crouch plus ten", insisting that the giant striker is an "obvious" aerial weapon against his makeshift defence, despite the England forward not starting the first leg in London.
Liverpool: Pepe Reina; Steve Finnan, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger, Álvaro Arbeloa; Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, John Arne Riise; Peter Crouch, Dirk Kuyt.
Chelsea: Petr Čech; Paulo Ferreira, Michael Essien, John Terry, Ashley Cole; John Obi Mikel, Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole; Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou.