Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers intends to pile on the cup pain for Chelsea as he takes his side to Stamford Bridge with “no fear” on Tuesday.
Chelsea, the Barclays Premier League leaders, crashed out of the FA Cup to League One Bradford after a shock 4-2 home loss on Saturday. Jose Mourinho’s side had previously been unbeaten at their own ground this season and Rodgers hopes to keep them on the back foot as their Capital One Cup semi-final resumes.
Liverpool drew 1-1 with the Londoners in the first leg of the tie at Anfield and Rodgers believes a repeat of the Reds’ attack-minded performance and attitude from that night could reap rewards.
He said: “We played them last week when they were coming off the back of, arguably, their best result and performance of the season against Swansea (a 5-0 win) – but we were outstanding in the game. We limited them to very limited possession and opportunities.
“We know it is going to be a tough game but we are certainly going into the game with no fear and our strength is very much in our attack. We showed that in the last game.
“The team is on the up, we have seen that over the last number of weeks. We’ve got great confidence knowing that, in particular away from home, our form and resilience is getting better and better and we can get a result.”
Rodgers accepts, however, that the Bradford upset – branded a ‘disgrace’ by Mourinho – could impact one of two ways on Chelsea. While on the one hand the Blues could still be reeling and vulnerable, on the other there could be a strong reaction.
Rodgers said: “The result at the weekend doesn’t help – they will have great motivation. It is a different game, a different competition, a Wembley place is at stake. When you come off a game like that you want to put it right.
“But there is also that, in the back of your mind, even if you’re up in the game – like they were, 2-0 – you can still lose the game. So I’m sure there’ll be that wee bit of trepidation.”
Whatever the result of the cup games, Chelsea have arguably an even more important date next weekend as they take on title rivals Manchester City in the league. But for Liverpool, whose title hopes seem long gone, the game is hugely significant.
Rodgers said: “It is very important. We will certainly be doing everything we can to get there (to the final). The opportunity to win trophies this year was always going to be up there in priority for us.
“We’re at the semi-final stage, it’s a one-off game now to take us there. We feel confident that we can get a result that gets us into the final.”
Liverpool could be boosted by the return of former Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge, who is now back in full training after months of injury frustration. The 25-year-old has not played for the Reds since August, mainly due to thigh problems, but is now close to making a comeback.
Rodgers said: “He had his training session with the team yesterday, he trained very well. That was as comfortable as he has looked, even when he was coming back before, when he was maybe a little bit tentative.
“I thought he looked back to normal. We will see how he feels today, but if he is not ready for tomorrow we won’t risk it. He has been out a long time and we need to make sure that he is ready and feels ready.”
Captain Steven Gerrard and defender Martin Skrtel, rested for Saturday’s FA Cup clash against Bolton, are likely to return but it remains to be seen if striker Mario Balotelli features. Balotelli was omitted at the weekend for reasons of form and attitude, although Rodgers continues to insist – contrary to speculation – the controversial Italian does have a future at Anfield.
He said: “We will give Mario every chance. We brought him in here for this season to give him every chance to show consistently that he can play at a team consistently at the top level.
“It has been a difficult period for him – no doubt – but he is a good boy who does want to fight for his opportunity and chance here.
“I have seen some clippings this morning (suggesting) that that is him over with (here) – but that’s not the case at all.”