Chelsea, Liverpool set for face off

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Chelsea and Liverpool meet at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.

Updated: April 25, 2007 07:21 IST
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Chelsea and Liverpool meet at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.

It's a repeat of the 2005 season, when Liverpool eliminated Chelsea in the final four and went on to win its fifth European Cup.

"We knocked them out in the semifinals in 2005, so there's no reason why we can't do it again. It's our only chance of silverware this season and the lads are buzzing," Liverpool defender Steve Finnan said.

This is particularly the case as Liverpool can concentrate entirely on Europe.

In fact, its 2-0 win over Wigan on Saturday ensured that it will finish in the top four of the English Premier League and earn another Champions League run next season.

Chelsea, meanwhile, is seeking an unprecedented four titles.

It's already secured the League Cup and is locked in a tight Premier League title fight with Manchester United, which it also meets in the FA Cup final on May 19.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho finally got public backing from the club's board this week after months of speculation about his future.

Mourinho had fallen out with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich but relations have thawed in recent weeks.

"For the board to say they wanted me to stay and the story was over, it was important. It is good, it feels good. Now we can work together for the future," said Mourinho.

Hectic schedule

Chelsea's immediate future is hectic. The Blues missed out on cutting the gap to Premier League leader Manchester United when it drew 0-0 with Newcastle on Sunday.

United had drawn 1-1 with Middlesbrough the day before and still leads Chelsea by three points with four games remaining.

For Wednesday, Chelsea could be without defender Ricardo Carvalho, who missed the Newcastle game with injury.

Michael Essien, who has often been drafted from midfield into defense, is suspended. Midfielder Michael Ballack was also hurt against Newcastle.

Liverpool won the last time the two met in January, beating Chelsea 2-0 at Anfield in the Premier League.

Chelsea defeated Liverpool 1-0 in September, also in the league, while Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-1 in the preseason Charity Shield in August.

Last season, the clubs met five times, including two scoreless draws in the group stage of the Champions League.

Chelsea won both league games on the way to its second consecutive Premier League trophy, but Liverpool eliminated Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinals on its way to that title.

Battling history

In the 2005 Champions League semifinals, the two played to a scoreless draw at Stamford Bridge and the tie was decided by Luis Garcia's disputed goal at Anfield, which Mourinho still refuses to acknowledge.

"The history the two clubs will create in the next two meetings is more important than what happened in the past," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said.

"I don't think there will be many goals. Chelsea have a very good defense and concede fewer goals now than we do. I think it will be a tight game, though. It tends to be like that when you know you have another game to come," he added.

Liverpool, which has no recent injuries, used captain Steven Gerrard for only 30 minutes on Saturday, giving the England midfielder a rest and will be completely fit and focused at winning European silverware.

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