Liverpool against Chelsea is the most eagerly anticipated Champions League quarter-final first leg this week despite the pair having met in the competition in each of the last four seasons.
Liverpool’s stunning form at home and abroad and Chelsea’s resurgence under interim coach Guus Hiddink make for an intriguing all-English tie rather than a boring fifth instalment of what has usually been a cagey affair.
Rafa Benitez’s side, who beat Real Madrid home and away in the last round and also humbled Manchester United recently to reopen the Premier League title race, have home advantage on Wednesday with the return leg in London on April 14.
“There are no secrets in modern football,” Hiddink told uefa.com before his team beat Newcastle United 2-0 on Saturday and Liverpool won 1-0 at Fulham with a last-gasp goal. “The players are known by the managers, the players know each other very well, the managers know how they play, so it’s very open and very tight. Benitez has proven he is a very smart manager. I’m looking forward to this battle.”
Chelsea are hopeful striker Didier Drogba will be fit to face Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday. The Ivorian missed Saturday’s 2-0 win at Newcastle with an ankle injury but completed a training session on Monday.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is confident skipper Steven Gerrard will be fit for the encounter at Anfield. “He had some problems [against Fulham on Saturday],” said Benitez, “but he’ll be OK. He was a bit tired and tight.”
- For their part, five-times European champions Liverpool can take heart from home-and-away wins against their opponents in the Premier League this season – not to mention an unbeaten home run in the UEFA Champions League that stretches to ten matches, including qualifiers.
- Both teams have formidable recent records when it comes to surmounting this particular hurdle: Liverpool won quarter-finals in 2005, 2007 and 2008, while Chelsea advanced in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008.
- This time round Liverpool advanced to their 13th quarter-final in Europe’s élite competition thanks to an emphatic 5-0 aggregate triumph against Spanish champions Real Madrid (1-0 away, 4-0 home). Rafael Benítez’s charges had previously won Group D with a record of W4 D2 L0 and are one of three sides still unbeaten in the competition alongside FC Bayern München and Manchester United FC.
- The Merseyside club’s overall record in European Champion Clubs’ Cup quarter-finals is: P12 W9 L3. Their most recent last-eight contest came against another London side, Arsenal, last season, and Liverpool prevailed 5-3 on aggregate.
- Guus Hiddink steered Chelsea through to the last eight as 3-2 aggregate victors against Juventus (1-0 home, 2-2 away). Under former manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, the London outfit had earlier finished second in Group A with a record of P6 W3 D2 L1.
- Chelsea’s overall quarter-final record is: P5 W4 L1. At this stage of last season’s competition, Chelsea suffered a 2-1 first-leg loss at Fenerbahçe but recovered to win the tie with a 2-0 home victory.
- That defeat in Istanbul forms part of a sequence of seven away matches without victory for Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League, excluding last season’s final.
- The rivalry between Liverpool and Chelsea has intensified over the course of eight UEFA Champions League encounters since 2005. Each side has won two games – but never by more than a single goal.