Rafa issues Gerrard challenge

08 April 2009 08:46
Rafa Benitez has challenged captain Steven Gerrard to rise to the occasion and fire Liverpool past Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. The two English foes meet for the fifth year in succession in Europe's flagship club competition when the Blues travel to Anfield on Wednesday, the fourth occasion they have crossed swords in the knockout stages. Gerrard has been in inspired form over the past month and the England star, who recently agreed a two-year contract extension, is likely to be key for Liverpool if they are to progress to the final four. 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," said the Liverpool boss. "We are facing a team packed with very good players and maybe it will present a different test for Stevie. Mistake "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." In the previous two-legged knockout clashes between Liverpool and Chelsea, home advantage in the first match has proved a hindrance, with the away side going on to win the overall tie. Last season the Blues defeated the Reds in the semi-finals after a late John Arne Riise own goal at Anfield in the first leg awarded ex-boss Avram Grant's team a crucial away strike and an eventual 4-3 aggregate victory. But Benitez is ready to alter the statistic, adding: "We will change this. Last year we played very well and made a mistake at the end that made a massive difference. "If you play well, score goals and keep a clean sheet, then there is no reason why you cannot go through. I think what has happened before is just a coincidence."

Source: SKY_Sports