The epic series of encounters between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC in the UEFA Champions League resumes at Anfield on Wednesday when the English sides face each other for the ninth time in the last five seasons.
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The epic series of encounters between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC in the UEFA Champions League resumes at Anfield on Wednesday, when the English sides face each other for the ninth time in the last five seasons.
This year the teams meet at the quarter-final stage, following two extraordinarily tense last-four victories for Liverpool – 1-0 on aggregate in 2004/05, and after a penalty shoot-out in 2006/07 – while Chelsea reached the 2007/08 final by winning 4-3 over two legs after extra time. Two goalless draws in the 2005/06 group stage complete the remarkable sequence. Chelsea will be encouraged that their sole triumph against Liverpool in the last four came after playing the first leg away from home, just as they will this time.
The two clubs overcame strong opposition in the first knockout round, with Liverpool dispatching Real Madrid CF 5-0 on aggregate while Chelsea prevailed 3-2 over two legs against Juventus. Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez, who has been in charge for all of their European encounters with the London club and masterminded the elimination of Arsenal FC at this stage last season, said: "We are really pleased to be playing against Chelsea again at this stage of the competition and hopefully it will be the same for the next five years because it will mean we're still there."
Liverpool and Chelsea remain the only serious contenders to halt Manchester United FC's quest to retain the English Premier League title, and Benítez said he believes that Sir Alex Ferguson will be in the unusual position of cheering on the home side at Anfield. "He'll be supporting Liverpool because he knows that we are the biggest threat now," Benítez said. "If we continue in the competition then maybe we will be tired [for the league], but if we are not in the competition he knows that we will be a threat. If Chelsea are not in the competition he knows that they can be a threat. He will lose either way!"
Benítez's side returned to the top of the table on Saturday after Yossi Benayoun struck in added time in a 1-0 triumph at Fulham FC, although United regained their one-point lead at the summit on Sunday with a similarly late victory against Aston Villa FC. Goals by Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda earned Chelsea a 2-0 win at Newcastle United FC that kept them in touch with the top two.
World is watching
Benítez is without midfielder Javier Mascherano as he serves a one-match suspension while Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink has full-back José Bosingwa missing due to a calf strain, although striker Didier Drogba is fit following an ankle problem. Hiddink pledged to take the game to Liverpool, saying: "These matches are finals, watched by the whole world. We did not come here to sit back and wait until we are overcome, and then react. It's not the way to play football in my philosophy. Wherever we can we will try to take the initiative. When the players are fully committed and stick to the tactical plan, it will depend on which team is not making fatal errors."