Liverpool v Chelsea preview
Liverpool and Chelsea meet in the UEFA Champions League for the fifth season in succession as they prepare to do battle in the 2008/09 quarter-finals. There tends to be signs of when spring has arrived. Warmer weather, leaves on trees, the premature appearance of an occasional, dubious pair of shorts, and red meets blue in the knockout stages of Europe's premier club competition. The two English rivals have clashed in the Champions League in every campaign since 2004/05, with three of the always-closely-fought ties coming in the semi-finals, while 2005/06 saw the sides meet in the group stages. Ahead of Wednesday's meeting at Anfield, Liverpool enjoy the edge from previous meetings, recording two semi-final victories to Chelsea's one, while the two matches in Group G ended in a pair of uninspiring stalemates. Bragging rights Chelsea, though, hold the most recent bragging rights after sending five-time competition winners Liverpool packing in the final four last term as home advantage in the first leg again proved a decisive curse. The side who plays in front of their own supporters in the opening meeting has gone on to lose the tie in the three semi-final clashes and, despite this season's encounter arriving a round earlier, Liverpool will be wary. Rafa Benitez's side's prowess when competing in continental competition on Merseyside is legendary, and the Spaniard - who has challenged captain Steven Gerrard to carry his recent run of electrifying form into the tie - is determined to make that factor count. However, Chelsea's temporary boss Guus Hiddink, the third Stamford Bridge counterpart Benitez has cross swords with in Europe following Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant, is a past master after winning the cup on penalties with PSV Eindhoven in 1988. Bitter blow The Dutchman, who maintains he is set to return to his sole job as Russia boss at the end of the season, also highlighted the Champions League as the most likely possibility of silverware after replacing the sacked Luiz Felipe Scolari in February. Hiddink will be boosted by the news that crucial Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano is suspended, but the announcement that Gerrard has been passed fit will come as a bitter blow. The Liverpool captain was substituted in the closing stages of Saturday's Premier League victory at Fulham after complaining of a tight groin, however, he is set to resume his potent attacking partnership with Fernando Torres. Chelsea have declared striker Didier Drogba fit following concerns of an ankle injury, and the West London outfit will be hoping for a similar performance to the one-man army that the Ivory Coast international produced in last season's semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge, which came after personal criticism from Benitez. But Portugal full-back Jose Bosingwa will miss out as the defender has yet to recover from a hamstring complaint sustained on international duty.
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