Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard claims the London side won't be going into the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool seeking revenge. Chelsea were knocked out by Liverpool in the 2005 semis before the Reds went on to pick up number five, and the goal that took them through still riles many at Chelsea to this day. Luis Garcia’s goal was awarded by the referee but no replays could confirm definitively whether it had crossed the line or not. Jose Mourinho still sulks about it to this day and no doubt many of his players do. Lampard insists that they aren’t bitter about it though: “Revenge is a silly thing to take into games because then you are not concentrating as you should be. What happened before doesn’t matter. All that matters is those two legs, winning and getting to the final.”
There will be many things said between now and the end of the tie between the two clubs, and if Jose Mourinho’s previous comments whenever the two sides have met are anything to go by, there’ll be a lot to laugh at too. Lampard perhaps sees that complaining so bitterly about what has already been written into the history books won’t help his club to get through, and seems intent on spreading the message that they must look forward, not back: “What matters is the history we make now. This season is about trying to win the Champions League and it will be the same for Liverpool. They won’t be thinking about what happened two years ago. They will be thinking about now.”
Lampard can look forward to a frosty reception for the second leg at Anfield, with chants about him being “fat” a certainty. Those chants will just be a small part of an atmosphere that will hopefully be as memorable for Liverpool fans as the one two years ago on the way to Istanbul. First of all though Liverpool must ensure they get a good result in the first leg at Stamford Bridge. Either way it seems certain that the whole 180 minutes of the two legs will be nail-biting moments, with both sides determined to beat their new rivals: “A Champions League semi-final is always a difficult game. We have a good squad, with very good players and I think you saw against Valencia that one of our strengths is fighting until the end. As the game went on we got stronger and stronger and we have to continue that.”
Both sides have hit form domestically recently, second-placed Chelsea gaining ground on Manchester United in the race for the league title and third-placed Liverpool pushing hard to ensure a top-four finish and a place in next season’s qualifiers. Lampard says Chelsea have to keep building on their recent performances: “We are in a good run in the league in England. We are playing very well and have got a lot of wins. Now we are in the semi-final of the Champions League and we have to keep on getting better. Every game for us now is huge and we cannot afford to lose one. We are either playing in a cup competition or in our league and we have to close the gap on Manchester United.”
Perhaps as a show of defiance that Chelsea won’t let the Anfield atmosphere get the better of them again Lampard spoke of the atmosphere in Spain in their quarter-final: “The atmosphere was very good at the Mestalla, so when you come through and win these sort of games it is the best feeling you can have. We had team spirit, quality and character. It is a very difficult place to come and to be a goal down at half-time, we had to show everything and we did that – we dominated in the second half.”
In 2005 there were numerous “omens” that were being discovered by Liverpool fans to compare to previous winning years in the competition, perhaps most memorably the death of the Pope that year. Many felt that Pope John Paul II was somehow helping out his compatriot Jerzy Dudek from above, especially for that save from current Chelsea player Andriy Shevchenko, then a Milan star. That particular omen isn’t looking likely to be repeated this year, and Manchester-based soap Coronation Street certainly won’t be helping out with a wedding for Ken and Dierdre. However the one big similarity to a previous winning year for Liverpool is the fact that not only is the semi-final between the two sides a repeat of 2005, but that year’s runners-up AC Milan are also semi-finalists. Liverpool went out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle that season too, and Chelsea will go into this tie as Carling Cup holders again.
Superstition plays a big part in football but Lampard says it all comes down to individuals’ and teams’ performances: “I don’t believe in destiny to be honest. No matter who you beat, if you don’t perform against Liverpool, then you are out.”