The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mourinho, Benitez gear up for clash
- Chelsea and Liverpool out to quench four-year thirst

London: It's been four years since either Chelsea or Liverpool won a European soccer title.

Their coaches have one each.

Jose Mourinho led FC Porto to a Champions League triumph last season while Rafael Benitez guided Valencia to the Uefa Cup final victory. They also took their clubs to domestic league championships.

Now they go head-to-head Wednesday for a place in the Champions League final with Chelsea and Liverpool meeting in a semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.

Having won both the Uefa Cup and Champions League in consecutive years, momentum would appear to be with Mourinho, and team captain John Terry believes that inertia gives the Blues the edge.

'Winning the Champions League again would be very special for the manager,' said Terry who was voted England's Player of the Year by his colleagues in the Professional Footballers Association Sunday.

'It would be great for him to win it in consecutive seasons after doing so well at Porto. We've got a long way to go but we've got a chance. If anyone can do it, it's our manager,' Terry said. 'It will be a tough game against Liverpool. They're very good defensively, similar to us. But hopefully we'll get a two-goal cushion at Stamford Bridge and win the tie up there. I'm sure we can break them down.'

Chelsea, who last won a European crown in 1998 when they claimed the next-to-last Cup Winners' Cup, have beaten Benitez' men three times this season: home and away victories in the Premier League and a 3-2 extra-time win in the English League Cup final.

The Blues also have eliminated the runaway leaders of the Spanish and German leagues ' Barcelona and Bayern Munich - to reach the last four.

But Liverpool, the last English club to win a European crown with the Uefa Cup in 2001, shrugged off their erratic league form this season to force a 0-0 draw in Turin to eliminate favoured Juventus 2-1 on aggregate in the quarter finals.

'Once you have beaten Juventus you have confidence you can beat anyone,' said Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso, who has returned from a three-month absence with a broken ankle.

'That success in the quarter finals, following the victory in Leverkusen in the previous round, gives us great confidence.

'I know our fans will be wanting us to beat them because of what has happened in the other games against Chelsea this season,' Alonso said. 'But we have to make sure we win because we deserve it, because of our performance on the pitch.

'It's a huge game because it's the Champions League semi-final, not just because it is against Chelsea.'

Liverpool's best chance of advancing to the final in the competition for first time in 20 years seems to hinge on defence at Stamford Bridge. Their scoring opportunities may be limited.

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