Next Up: Chelsea Preview

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It’s the biggest game of the season as Chelsea arrive at Anfield for the Champions League semi-final first leg. A repeat of the 2005 and 2007 semi final match up and Liverpool will be hoping for a similar outcome.

The Reds won both the previous semi finals 1-0 at Anfield courtesy of Luis Garcia’s controversial goal in 2005 and last season’s penalty shoot-out after Daniel Agger’s goal in the Anfield leg. The season in between the two European semi finals Rafa Benitez lined up against Jose Mourinho again, this time in the 2006 FA Cup semi final at Old Trafford. The Reds won that too so any talk of third time lucky for Chelsea isn’t quite true.

The big difference this time around is the home leg being first with the return to Stamford Bridge to follow so a change of tactics may be required. Obviously this is also the first time Avram Grant has had chance to pit his wits against Benitez in such a big game. Although the two managers have faced each other in knockout competition already this season when the two sides met in the League Cup quarter final which saw Chelsea win 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Benitez spiced up the pre-match talk by increasing the pressure on Grant, who was largely criticised after their League Cup Final defeat to Tottenham, by suggesting that Chelsea under Grant have less team spirit than under former manager Jose Mourinho. “There’s no difference between this year’s Chelsea and last year’s,” stated Benitez. “I think it’s more or less the same. It could be they have less spirit than under Mourinho.”

Rafa Benitez rested most of his first team players against Fulham at the weekend and is expected to recall Gerrard, Torres, Babel, Kuyt, Alonso, Carragher and Aurelio. Steven Gerrard will be passed fit despite concerns over a reported neck injury which kept him out of the win at Fulham on Saturday.

Chelsea are boosted by the return of Frank Lampard, although Didier Drogba is likely to be ruled out with an injury. That means former Liverpool striker Nicolas Anelka will pose the main threat up front for the Blues.

The match is live on ITV1 for UK visitors, kick off 7:45pm.

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