A selection of links and quotes taken from the inordinate number of stories published in the build-up to tonight’s Champions League semi-final.
Mourinho v Benitez, BBC Sport: “The first leg of the Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Liverpool will be the 14th time the two sides have met since [Mourinho and Benitez] arrived in England within 12 days of each other in June 2004.”
Atmosphere is unique Anfield calling card, The Times: “Are you ready for it Chelsea? You were not two years ago and we’re set to take things up a notch. Because that thing called atmosphere is Liverpool’s calling card. And if you are not four up going to Anfield, worry.”
Hard to sing when you are winning, The Times: “Stamford Bridge has come alive again, further roused by the repeatedly astonishing performances of a team who refuse to admit the possibility of tiredness. Accordingly, expect the place to glow hot [tonight]. And to be full of flags. If we can’t suck one in, we’ll be looking to flap one in. And we’ll make sure ours crosses the line.”
Blues may be all the better for being busier, The Guardian: “When Peter Beardsley bumped into Chelsea’s John Terry and Didier Drogba at St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon he sensed they were on the sort of adrenalin high which could spell bad news for Liverpool tonight. Chelsea had just been held to a goalless draw by Newcastle but the two players looked invigorated rather than jaded after completing a daunting sequence of fixtures prefacing tonight’s Champions League semi-final first leg.”
Pre-match briefing: Chelsea v. Liverpool, Chelsea FC Official Website: “How important will [referee] Dr Markus Merk be on Wednesday evening in this crucial semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge? Not for his skills in dealing with discoloured teeth in his day job as a dentist, but in handling a different kind of yellow.”
Rafa and Jose – poles apart, a mutual dislike but born winners, The Independent: “From fanatical young footballers who never made the grade to obsessive young tacticians with qualifications in physical education who lifted the Uefa Cup and Champions League in successive seasons, won two championships in a league supposedly annexed by two heavyweights, fought boardroom battles and were pitted together for their 100th Premiership game, there is much to unite the parallel universes of the Liverpool and Chelsea managers. Yet their style, their methods and their common goals will always keep them apart.”
For me, these last few hours before kick-off are always horribly tense. I’m wondering whether we’ve got enough left in the tank to break down Liverpool’s eleven-man defence and take a lead to Anfield? I predict another tight, edge-of-the-seat affair. How about you?