Rafa Benitez looked and sounded confident at the pre-match press conference today, ahead of tomorrow night’s match at Anfield. The second-leg of the Champions League Semi-Final probably doesn’t need much motivational talk from a manager, but Benitez will be talking that way anyway. Part one of his team talk went out to the "twelfth man" of Liverpool – the fans. The Spanish boss said: "We know how good our supporters will be and hearing them against Olympiacos, Bayer Leverkusen and Juventus we know they are very important to us. I hope to see an even better atmosphere than before. It’s going to be hard because we have the best supporters in the English league and it will be hard to beat the atmosphere we had against Juventus." We have the best supporters in England and in Europe and we have a clear idea about what to do. I am sure we can win."
Much talk has been about the value of an away goal to Chelsea tomorrow night – but Benitez simplified the situation: "We need to score one more goal than them and we need to have the right mentality. When you play to win in the home leg it’s always different, you cannot think about the other result now."
Liverpool are the underdogs – no doubt about it – but Benitez says he’s more than happy with the balance of the tie right now: "If you said to me before the competition that we could be in the final if we beat Chelsea, Juventus, Real Madrid or Barcelona at home than I would say, sure why not. The most important thing as a manager is to be calm and relaxed and focus on this game. We are thinking about 90 minutes and if we start with a high tempo then maybe we can score the first goal."
Chelsea’s manager and players have told the world they’re now through. Liverpool are a formality to Chelsea. Benitez thinks that the first leg performance brought Liverpool back into the tie to the surprise of many neutrals: "Before the first game at Stamford Bridge everybody was talking as though Chelsea were already through but after it maybe we have got more credit."
Benitez was asked whether he thought Mourinho was the best coach in the world. Rafa said that Mourinho was "one of the best, sure." He went on, "He has a good team and he is a good manager – if you get the two things together than you normally have winners. He works hard and he knows the game."
Then came a big jolt of confidence from Rafael Benitez: Again about Mourinho, Rafa said: "He is one of the best coaches, sure. He has one of the best teams, sure. But he will lose tomorrow."
When Benitez says it you feel it might just come true. He then said: "I offer my congratulations to the manager and the players of Chelsea on winning the Premiership title and then I say sorry about the next competition!"
Liverpool will be missing Xabi Alonso tomorrow, but Benitez knows they can manage without him: "We know we have good players, and it’s an opportunity for us to make the final and to make history. I think we have played a good game away, and made some good chances. At home I’m sure we will have more chances."
Steven Gerrard looks hungry again, scoring a goal that should be goal of the season at the weekend. Stevie will be playing a big part tomorrow if Benitez gets his way: "Chelsea are a very good team with a lot of possibilities and are strong but we have good players too and for me Steven Gerrard will be the key player. He can change a game, he showed against Middlesbrough the goals he can score."