Reds v Chelsea: The mind games begin

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is still not over the fact that Luis Garcia’s shot in the 2005 semi-final at Anfield was awarded as a goal. Sky TV used a computer program at the time to “prove” it hadn’t crossed the line. A photo circulated on the internet later taken using a mobile phone, showing the ball was over the line. Sky don’t seem to use that computer any more. And the goal stood, taking Liverpool to the final, and that glorious night in Istanbul.

Now there’s going to be a repeat after Liverpool beat PSV 4-0 on aggregate, Peter Crouch’s goal last night added to the 3-0 result from the first leg. In fact three of the 2005 season’s four semi-finalists have reached the semis, including the other finalists from that season, AC Milan.

Jose Mourinho mentions Luis Garcia’s goal every time he mentions Liverpool. And he’ll be delighted that Luis – who had his name sung by the Anfield fans last night – won’t be able to play in the clashes this time round due to injury.

Mourinho was getting his excuses in early, starting the mind games as soon as his Chelsea side had managed to knock Rafa’s old side Valencia out of the quarter finals on Tuesday night. He said: “Revenge is not for me, not in life or in football.” It’s doubtful that anyone actually believed him. He also seemed to forget that Liverpool have to keep winning in the league to ensure a top-four finish: “We start from behind as Liverpool are only playing for the Champions League and we are playing for the Champions League, the FA Cup and the Premiership. We have injuries and suspensions, but Liverpool have clean health.” He’s forgotten about his friend Luis Garcia too.

After the game at Anfield Rafael Benítez was asked about the semi-final
and his relationship with Mourinho. To those who don’t know Rafa’s
style his words could sound arrogant, but instead he was speaking with
that touch of sarcastic but honest humour he uses so well. In many ways
his style when responding to questions is very similar to how Kenny
Dalglish used to answer questions at press conferences and interviews.
He says of Mourinho: “We were good friends until we started beating
them. He has a very good relationship with all the managers he beats.”

From Rafa that was purely an observation. He says Jose wasn’t so
spiteful about the Reds to start with: “When we started to beat him,
then he changed his mind. But fighting with the managers of top sides
is normal, and fighting with him is normal. I do not like it.”

Many reports this morning have tried to claim Rafa has started the
press war of words, but as Rafa says: “I didn't start the war of words
– he started it yesterday!”

The semi-final will be a tense affair for both sets of fans. Mourinho’s
comments suggest he knows that Liverpool are much closer to them in
ability than they have been since the two managers took over their
respective clubs. The gap between the two clubs in the league is mainly
down to some awful form before Christmas from Liverpool – post
Christmas Liverpool have been in great form. Rafa is confident that his
side can match Chelsea and go on to beat them: “Chelsea again! We know
them and they know us, but always we have confidence.  As the manager
of Liverpool you are right to have confidence in this team. I believe
we will win.”

As for Garcia’s goal two years ago: “Chelsea can not change what
happened two years ago even if they do not accept it,” said Rafa. And
referring to Mourinho’s complaints that they are fighting for so many
different pieces of silverware: “That is what they want. They must be
there and they must compete for every competition; that is their aim.
Yes, we only have one trophy to go for, but they would not want to
change what they are doing now.”

Despite the confidence, Rafa’s not counting any chickens yet: “We know
Chelsea are a very good team. In the last five years, they have spent
big money on players and they have a very good squad. It will be tough.
They are very difficult team to play against. What we will do now is
concentrate on the Premier League and then we will concentrate on

He went on: “We play the second leg at Anfield and, if we can do
something at Stamford Bridge, then maybe we will have an advantage, but
we know it will be difficult football.”

Rafa was also asked for his views on the fact that three of the four
semi-finalists are from England: “It is really important for the
Premier League to show Europe how strong we are, it is the best league
in Europe at this moment. The three teams at the top are in the
Champions League semi-finals.”

The losing manager last night, PSV’s Ronald Koeman, said the strength
of the English league was helped by the money the league attracts: “It
has been a great season for English clubs, Chelsea, Manchester United
and now Liverpool in the semi-finals. This demonstrates how strong
their league is. But they have the money, the best players and the best

PSV had really lost this tie a week earlier on their home ground when
Liverpool built up a 3-0 lead. Last night they seemed to be playing for
pride, almost as if their aim was to avoid defeat on the night. They
lost that chance when Crouch scored the only goal, although Koeman felt
a red card for one of his own players was unjust: “We deserved more for
the way we played. We were disciplined and organised. But the referee
did not help in sending off Dirk Marcellis. It was barely a yellow
card. When you make a decision like that, you show you do not know

Craig Bellamy was stretchered off last night, but Rafa is hopeful it
wasn’t a long-term problem: “It doesn’t seem serious but we won’t know
until he has a scan.” He’ll have that scan today.

Peter Crouch can’t stop scoring at the moment, and hopes he and his
team-mates can keep that going: “Tonight was a job well done more than
a spectacle. I’ve been pleased with my form in the Champions League.
Hopefully, I can keep it going. I've got a few goals in the Champions
League this season,” said Crouch. “Hopefully we can keep our form going
in the semi-final and make it really special.” His dad will have mixed
feelings about the game though: “My dad, Bruce, is a Chelsea
season-ticket holder and the game down there is local for him. So,
hopefully, it will be a special night. It’s going to be a special
occasion for myself, my family and everyone connected with Liverpool.
We have had that tie before and let’s hope it’s the same outcome.”

Crouch is one of the players who joined after Istanbul, and he wants to
find out first-hand what it feels like to be a European Cup winner:
“All the boys are hungry for it again. We have seen what a special
occasion the final is and I want to get there for the first time.”

The first leg, at Stamford Bridge, is on Wednesday April 25th, Sky have
the UK rights to that game. The second leg will be at Anfield on May
1st, and will be shown on ITV in the UK.