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29 Apr 2008 08:41
Fernando Torres has been living a dream in the Champions League this season but the Liverpool striker wants one more fairy tale in his side’s semifinal second leg against Chelsea on Wednesday.
Torres has made a big impact in his first Champions League campaign and his goals have been instrumental in Liverpool’s march to the brink of a third final in four seasons.
For years the Spaniard was consumed by the prospect of starring in Europe’s elite club competition. Now all his dreams have come true.
He has already amassed a collection of memories that will stay with him for life, but the ultimate test lies in wait at Stamford Bridge as Liverpool try to inflict more semifinal misery on Chelsea.
After knocking out the Blues at this stage at Anfield in 2005 and 2007, Liverpool find themselves as the underdogs.
John Arne Riise’s last-gasp own goal gifted Chelsea a 1-1 draw in the first leg last Tuesday and only a win or a high-scoring draw in west London will send Rafa Benitez’s side through to the Moscow final against Manchester United or Barcelona.
It is a daunting proposition considering Liverpool have never scored at the Bridge in eight attempts since Benitez took charge in 2004.
But Torres’s presence ensures they have every chance of ending that barren run.
The former Atletico Madrid forward missed two good opportunities in the first leg but he is confident of making amends this time.
“I have wanted to play against guys like [Chelsea defenders] John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho for a long time, and they do me an honour by giving me a tough time,” he said.
“Now I’m going to try to respond to them by getting a couple of goals against Chelsea.
“I have already got plenty of memories. My goal at the San Siro when we beat Inter Milan 1-0, the 4-0 win over Marseille, and my goal in the 4-2 win over Arsenal.
“And now it is the turn of Chelsea. I don’t ask myself questions. I just tell myself time and again that I have done the right thing to join Liverpool.”
Liverpool had the advantage of being able to rest a host of first-teamers for Saturday’s trip to Birmingham, but Chelsea manager Avram Grant had no such luxury against Manchester United.
Not that Grant was complaining after Michael Ballack’s penalty sent his side level on points with United. Suddenly, after months of criticism from fans and pundits, Grant is within touching distance of a Premier League and Champions League double.
Yet Grant is far from secure despite his team’s fine end to the season and he can’t afford to let a Champions League final slip through his fingers.
Chelsea have lost at this stage three times in four years but they have never been in such a favourable position going into the second leg.
To finish the job Grant needs his strongest side, so he will be desperate for Frank Lampard’s return after the England midfielder missed the United match to mourn the death of his mother.
Lampard returned to training on Sunday, but will be allowed to decide if he wants to be involved against Liverpool.
If Lampard opts to stay with his family, Ballack will once again be the pivotal figure in Chelsea’s midfield.
The German, who has gradually become more influential in the second half of the season, insists his side have the edge on Benitez’s team.
“A win gives us confidence, we have it and we have shown that we can play very well but on Wednesday it is a very different game, it is the Champions League,” Ballack said. “So on Wednesday we are expecting a very different fight.
“But I think we look fresh, we look better than all other teams have in the Champions League now, so we will see. We want to get to the final.”—Sapa-AFP
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