Rafa relishes Blues return

Benitez prepares to face old rivals once again

Rafael Benitez is looking forward to Liverpool's third UEFA Champions League semi-final with Chelsea in four seasons.

The Spaniard masterminded the quarter-final defeat of Arsenal - a 4-2 victory and 5-3 aggregate triumph over Arsene Wenger's men.

Now Liverpool face Chelsea at home first, on 22nd April, with the return at Stamford Bridge on 30th April for the right to contest the final in Moscow.

Benitez said: "It is amazing that it is Chelsea again, and just as before it will be a very, very tough game."

Liverpool have had the upper hand over Chelsea in Europe. They beat them 1-0 on aggregate to reach the successful 2005 final in Istanbul, and then battled through two 0-0 group stage matches against the west Londoners the following season.

Then last term they reached the final in Athens with a penalty shoot-out success over Chelsea.

Now it is Chelsea again, but this time the second leg will be at Stamford Bridge.


Benitez said: "Will that be an advantage to Chelsea? I don't know, these games are always very close. I will tell you after the matches who had the advantage."

Liverpool have now reached their ninth European Cup semi-final and their 15th in all European competitions.

The Anfield victory saw Benitez emerge triumphant and unbeaten from three clashes with the north Londoners in a week.

The Gunners took an early lead through Abou Diaby in the 13th minute, only for Sami Hyypia to level.

Fernando Torres fired the Reds in front, but Emmanuel Adebayor looked to have put the Gunners through with a second late away goal after a brilliant surging run by Theo Walcott before Gerrard won it from the spot. Substitute Ryan Babel added a fourth in stoppage time.

Benitez said: "I was delighted with the belief of my players, particularly in the second half. We had been so poor before the break, but so much better in the second period.

"It was a tremendous game for our fans, there were six goals and we played so well.

"Now we have Chelsea again in the semi-final. Again it will be a very, very tough game against an excellent side. But we have enough experience of such matches and clearly the belief to succeed again."