Blues Challenge Doesn't Faze Rafa

08 April 2009 10:09
Rafael Benitez insists he's not tired of facing Chelsea yet again and has challenged Steven Gerrard to fire Liverpool past the Blues and into the Champions League semi-finals.

Wednesday night's tie has become something of a regular fixture in Europe's premier club competition with both sides preparing to square up for the fifth successive season.

Since Benitez arrived at Anfield in 2004, Liverpool have clashed with Chelsea an incredible 22 times in all competitions and the Spaniard is expecting another tough encounter.

"I am not tired of playing Chelsea," Benitez insisted. "It means we are doing well in this competition because we are both good sides.

"It is hard to find anything different to surprise them. The players know each other really well. I do not see a big difference between this game and the others.

"We seem to thrive on matches against the top sides. It is easier to motivate yourself when you are playing the best because you want to be successful.

"The team at home in the second leg has so far always won these meetings with Chelsea. But we can change that. We have won at Chelsea and Manchester United so we know we can win tough matches away.

"We have enough confidence to know that we can beat anyone. We are handling pressure better now because we have better players."

Benitez is also backing captain Gerrard to play the key role for Liverpool on Wednesday night.

Gerrard has been in inspired form over the past month and the England star, who recently agreed a two-year contract extension, will be relied upon to deliver the goods again.

But while Benitez recognises that Gerrard is in top shape, he acknowledges his skipper is facing a tough task in breaking down a Guus Hiddink-led Chelsea side containing the likes of Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard.

"It is very difficult to stop Stevie when he is at his best but we have to remember who we are up against," he added.

"We are facing a team packed with very good players and maybe it will present a different test for Stevie.

"If the likes of Michael Essien, Michael Ballack or Frank Lampard are on top of their game, they will take some stopping.

"We all value Stevie's contribution very highly and the fact that we have signed him up on a long-term contract shows we are doing our job properly.

"But make no mistake, he has got a challenge on his hands against this Chelsea team."

Source: Eurosport