Liverpool and Chelsea were drawn against each other for the fifth successive season in the Champions League. The teams met in last year’s semi-final, when a John Arne Riise own goal in the last minute of the first leg at Anfield shifted the momentum of the tie in favor of Chelsea, who advanced with a 4-3 aggregate victory.
“We need to make sure we don’t make a mistake in the first leg like we did in last year’s semi-final,” said Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez. “They will be two tough games but we are playing well and we are confident we can win.”
Interim Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink is not worried about his team playing Chelsea again.
“If you have great desire to get to the end in May, you have to play them – Liverpool, Manchester United, Barcelona,” said Hiddink, who guided PSV Eindhoven to the European Cup in 1988. “Both teams like to play football and have players in their teams to play in an attacking way. That’s a guarantee for big clashes.”
The winners of the Liverpool-Chelsea tie will play either Barcelona or Bayern Munich the semi-finals, with Manchester United and Arsenal on course to meet if they can overcome Porto and Villarreal respectively.
“This is a good draw. We’ve met Porto before and obviously we respect any Portuguese team,” United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. “We have had a huge Portuguese influence in the club, firstly with (former assistant manager) Carlos Queiroz but now with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani so we understand Portuguese football.”
Porto eliminated United en route to their shock 2004 Champions League triumph, while Arsenal are reunited with the side that they beat in the semi-finals of the 2005-06 tournament. The tie will hold special meaning for Villarreal midfielder Robert Pires, who won two league titles and two FA Cups in six years at Arsenal before leaving for Spain in 2006.
“Of course it will be a special match,” Pires said. “Returning there makes me very happy but today, as a Villarreal player, I want to win to continue in the competition with my team.”
Pires’s former Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry declared himself relieved that his Barcelona team had avoided being drawn against the Gunners, but warned that German champions Bayern – who notched a record 12-1 aggregate win over Sporting Lisbon in the last 16 – would be no push-overs.
“It is going to be a very difficult match,” Henry said. “They scored a lot of goals in the previous round, so it is not going to be easy.”