Chelsea focus on Champions League

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has virtually conceded the Premier League title. Now his attention turns back to winning the Champions League.

updated: May 02, 2007 14:35 IST
  • Total Shares

Liverpool, England:

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has virtually conceded the Premier League title. Now his attention turns back to winning the Champions League.

Chelsea has a 1-0 lead going into the second leg of the semifinals at Liverpool on Tuesday, thanks to Joe Cole's goal at Stamford Bridge last Wednesday.

"Part of our game must be to get the ball, scare and score," Mourinho said on Tuesday.

Chelsea will have to do that without striker Andriy Shevchenko, who injured his groin and didn't travel to Liverpool with the team.

The Blues need to rebound from Saturday's draining 2-2 draw with Bolton in the Premier League, which extended Manchester United's lead to five points with three games to go.

Third-place Liverpool - with 67 points, 13 adrift of Chelsea - has already qualified for next season's Champions League.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez rested seven key players in the 2-1 league defeat at Portsmouth on Saturday, including captain Steven Gerrard and defender Jamie Carragher.

"We're playing a team that had one week to rest and to prepare for this game against another team that had to play two days ago and had to fight physically, mentally in a title race," Mourinho said.

Ignoring Anfield's passionate - and intimidating -fans will also be a necessity for Chelsea.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez described his supporters as the "special ones" - a dig at Mourinho, who has styled himself the "Special One."

"Playing at Anfield is going to be a boost for us. We hope we can use the energy that Anfield provides us," Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso said Monday.

Extra motivation

Mourinho believes the hostile atmosphere can provide extra motivation for his players.

The Blues were knocked out of the competition by Liverpool at the same stage in 2005, when the Reds went on to win their fifth title on penalty kicks against AC Milan.

If the quadruple looks unlikely at this stage, Chelsea remains on course for the treble, having already won the League Cup and due to play Man United in the FA Cup final on May 19.

Above all, Mourinho - who won the competition with FC Porto in 2004 - craves winning Chelsea's first European Cup, particularly if it keeps owner Roman Abramovich happy.

"I think he has to be very happy and very proud his team with so many difficult problems during the season arrives into May with one cup, one final, one semifinal and second position in the Premiership," Mourinho said of Abramovich.

At one stage, Abramovich was reportedly considering firing Mourinho, but Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon later said the Portuguese manager had the club's full backing.

"They (Chelsea) know the pressure they have," Benitez said. "You can ask Mr Abramovich if he wants the Champions League more than the other trophies."

Michael Essien is back for the Blues after a one-match ban and could partner John Terry in the center of defence, with Ricardo Carvalho a doubt with a knee injury. After undergoing an ankle operation, midfielder Michael Ballack is ruled out.

"(Carvalho) is the pillar, always there, so to miss him in such a big game is a big blow, but we have other players," Mourinho said. "Rafa's a good manager, he has a player with two meters (Peter Crouch), he knows Carvalho is not playing, I think he's intelligent if he plays a direct game to Crouch."

While Chelsea can progress with a scoreless draw, Liverpool has to win.

"If we play at our level I am sure we will win," Benitez said. "I don't think it's any secret, we will try to play with a high tempo from the beginning and if we play 90 minutes with a high tempo - perfect."

The Champions League is the only competition Liverpool can win this season.

"We believe we are a better side than two years ago when we went on to win the trophy, but that is something we have to show on the pitch," Alonso said.

"The only way to prove that (we have progressed) is to get to the final and win it again. We also know that at Liverpool we have to lift trophies every season, that is the pressure here and you must accept it."

History is on Benitez's side - Liverpool has not been knocked out of the European Cup semifinals since 1965 against Inter Milan.

A Liverpool win could set up a rerun of the 2005 final, if Milan can overcome a 3-2 deficit on Wednesday against the Red Devils.