Liverpool need to strike early against Chelsea

By Tommy Smith on Apr 30, 08 03:56 PM in Columnists

IT'S a clear cut situation for me tonight - Liverpool need to strike quickly and unsettle Chelsea.

There is no doubt the effect an early goal for the Reds will have on tonight's Champions League semi-final second leg.

For most of the night at Anfield you got the impression that the Londoners would have settled for a 1-0 defeat - until they were handed a late gift.

It forces the Reds into an attacking mode tonight - but if they could score twice, and they have the players capable of doing so - then the tie is turned upside down.

That, I hope, will be Rafa Benitez's philosophy.

Chelsea will be cocky about preserving their home record, but an early strike from us would put considerable pressure on them.

Psychologically, they know we have beaten them twice in Euro semi-finals. If we can cause problems early on, and take the lead in the process, they will be aware of the dangers of us getting a second - and the consequen- ces of them having to attack us and leave themselves open to the counter.

We need goals and I am sure that Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, in particular, will hold the key to our chances of making it to another final.

Away from home, we usually sit back a little bit, soak up the pressure and then hit the opposition on the break. But, playing away in the second leg is different, especially as it stands at 1-1.
I don't think the line-up will differ much to the first leg, with the exception of Fabio Aurelio.

I expect Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel to combat the threat of Didier Drogba, and the game could hinge on who takes midfield control.

Gerrard will play his usual roving role, pushing up and lending support to Torres, who has been in terrific form this season and hopefully can lead the Chelsea rearguard a merry dance.

That places more emphasis on Javier Mascherano breaking up Chelsea's rhythm and Xabi Alonso providing the service for Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel to attack the Londoners.

Babel will presumably play down the left and use his speed to cut inside.

The Flying Dutchman, whose pace troubled Arsenal in the previous round, is something of an enigma - when he's bad he has a stinker, but when he's good he could be a matchwinner - but if he's on song it's another problem for the home defence.

Babel definitely has a future at Anfield, and is still only young, but he has to make a greater impact overall on a game than he does at times.

Chelsea will be on a high after beating Manchester United last weekend - but the visitors were not at full strength and Avram Grant's side struggled to win.
Liverpool are a better team than Chelsea. Now they have to prove it in their biggest game of the season.

The quality of Torres and Gerrard, whose energy can cause any defence headaches, will provide the attacking spearhead to take the game to Chelsea, but victory will only be achieved if everyone else plays to the top of their ability.

Despite Jermain Pennant's performance at Birmingham - after all, a possible relegation outfit - he will only get a place on the bench, alongside Peter Crouch.

But, on a night when anything can happen (just ask John Arne Riise about the first leg!) they may be called upon to play vital roles in what I believe will be a Reds victory.

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