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Champions League is priority for Chelsea, says Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez believes Chelsea want to win the Champions League more than the other two trophies they are chasing.

sports Updated: Apr 24, 2007 21:05 IST
Jeremy Butler
Jeremy Butler

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez believes Chelsea want to win the Champions League more than the other two trophies they are chasing.

"They will think a lot about trophies right now and have a big squad to cope with problems at this stage of the season," Benitez told reporters ahead of Wednesday's semi-final clash.

"But... they know the major competition now is the Champions League and they will be focused on it," he added before his squad departed for the first leg at Stamford Bridge.

As well as the Chmapions League, Chelsea are also fighting it out with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League and also face Alex Ferguson's men in the FA Cup final.

Benitez's claim may be designed to heap pressure on a Chelsea team that has failed to win the Champions League since Russian owner Roman Abramovich took over in 2003.

Liverpool denied the west London side at the semi-final stage in 2005 before going on to lift the trophy in Istanbul after defeating AC Milan on penalties in the final.

Benitez's men got past Chelsea courtesy of a disputed Luis Garcia goal but he believes that match is now forgotten.

Better team

"We're a better team than two years ago, maybe they are a better team as well," said Benitez. "We do have more experience now though and feel we can do it.

"We'll approach the game in the same way we did against Barcelona," he added, referring to a 2-1 win in the first leg of their first knockout round tie at the Nou Camp in March that saw them past the holders on away goals after a 1-0 home defeat.

"We'll try to win and try to score one or two goals. It will be difficult, though, because Chelsea do not concede a lot."

Benitez has been recognised as an astute tactical coach on European nights, inspiring Liverpool to victories over Juventus, Chelsea and Barcelona when starting as underdogs.

But he said: "You can talk about tactics and have everything perfect but one top player can change everything.

"(Chelsea striker Didier) Drogba or (Liverpool midfielder Steven) Gerrard can do something special so it's more important to think about players than tactics."

He also revealed that Liverpool's Champions League-winning hero Jerzy Dudek is set to leave Anfield in the close season.

The Polish goalkeeper's penalty saves were crucial in the win over AC Milan in 2005 but he has been relegated to a role as a back-up to Jose Reina since that night.

"He is out of contract at the end of the season," Benitez said. "We were talking about him, and his future, and we expect him to leave at the end of the season."

First Published: Apr 24, 2007 21:02 IST