Liverpool’s performance over two legs against Juventus brought them the prize of a semi-final place in the European Cup for the first time in twenty years. This is a tremendous achievement for Rafael Benitez in his first year as Liverpool’s manager.
Liverpool will play Chelsea and Rafa says it won’t be easy: "We are getting a lot of confidence from these Champions League games. It will be difficult and for me Chelsea will be favourites. They are top of the table in the Premiership but we have nothing to lose. We can only win."
The Spanish boss knows that Liverpool have been unlucky against Chelsea this season, in a season that has seen Chelsea get nothing but luck: "We have played them three times this season and the last two matches have been very close. Maybe it is our turn now to win."
Rafa had a message for the staff and supporters of Liverpool FC: "I want to dedicate this victory to our fans, the staff and all the workers at Liverpool. We have done a good job. I am proud and it is important to be in the semi-final after the year we have had. We know we are inconsistent but I am delighted."
Benitez revealed that homework before the game was important in helping Liverpool progress against the Italian league leaders: "After watching some of their games we knew they were strong in the middle and we tried to stop them having an influence there. In the end, we knew exactly what to do."
Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso played the whole 90 minutes – much longer than anyone expected he’d be able to manage. Benitez brought him to the club and will now be looking forward to getting to use him again. Alonso has missed all Liverpool’s games this year after a Frank Lampard tackle left him with a broken ankle. Benitez was pleased with him last night: "Xabi did very well. His demeanour is very good and he’s a good player with the ball. It was great he could last 90 minutes. Even though he was tired in the second half, he did very, very well."
Benitez knows what Liverpool fans expect of their new manager. He said, "I think of myself now as a Liverpool manager, not a Spanish manager, and I would like to play good football and get to the final as manager of this club. Can we win? Why not, it’s football and anything can happen. I am delighted, proud and overjoyed to be in the semi-finals, but most of all I am so pleased to be manager of Liverpool, a club with such traditions and to have been able to add just something to that history."
Benitez also gave Liverpool a hint that he feels Liverpool will get better: "People may think we are ahead of ourselves, and it is always difficult in the first season you take over a club. But we have worked hard and tried to learn. I am disappointed with our inconsistency in the league, but OK, let’s wait and see what happens next season, maybe then it will be fine."