LIVERPOOL manager Brendan Rodgers has attempted to pile pressure on Chelsea before tonight’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg by insisting a shock FA Cup exit has left them riddled with “trepidation”.
The Blues host Rodgers’ men for a place at Wembley tonight, just three days after squandering a two-goal lead to lose 4-2 at home to League One Bradford in one of the biggest cup surprises of all time.
Rodgers admits that defeat may work against Liverpool, as Chelsea should be desperate to make amends, but expects that spectacular collapse to have left Jose Mourinho’s side feeling vulnerable.
“The result at the weekend doesn’t help; they will have great motivation. It is a different game, a different competition, a Wembley place is at stake. When you come off a game like that you want to put it right,” he said.
“But there is also that, in the back of your mind, even if you’re up in the game, like they were, you can still lose the game. So I’m sure there’ll be that wee bit of trepidation.”
Mourinho is set to field a far stronger team than he did against Bradford, when he rested stars such as Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, John Terry, Nemanja Matic and Thibaut Courtois.
But former Blues striker Daniel Sturridge could return for the visitors, and Rodgers has pledged to maintain the attacking strategy that earned a 1-1 draw in a pulsating first leg seven days ago.
“We know it is going to be a tough game but we are certainly going into the game with no fear and our strength is very much in our attack. We showed that in the last game,” said Rodgers, whose team are now unbeaten in 10 games.
“The team is on the up, we have seen that over the last number of weeks. We’ve got great confidence knowing that, in particular away from home, our form and resilience is getting better and better and we can get a result.”
Sturridge has not played since 3 September due to a thigh injury and subsequent setbacks but may be involved after impressing Rodgers in training on Sunday.
“That was as comfortable as he has looked, even when he was coming back before, when he was maybe a little bit tentative,” the Reds boss added.
“I thought he looked back to normal. We will see how he feels, but if he is not ready we won’t risk it. He has been out a long time and we need to make sure that he is ready and feels ready.”
Mourinho omitted winger Andre Schurrle on Saturday amid speculation linking him with a return to the Bundesliga, just 18 months after his arrival from Bayer Leverkusen. Suitors Schalke are believed to have baulked at the £23m asking price, according to reports in Germany, although the World Cup winner is said to be interested in joining Wolfsburg.
The Chelsea manager urged his team to produce an immediate response following the weekend elimination and take their last chance to reach Wembley this season. “It’s the good thing about playing consecutive matches without many days in between,” he said. “You don’t have a lot of time to be moaning or analysing what happened in the bad one.”
STURRIDGE COMEBACK BAD NEWS FOR CHELSEA
ENGLAND striker Daniel Sturridge could return from a four-and-a-half-month injury lay-off tonight against Chelsea, and the stats show how much Liverpool have missed the former Blues player. Since Sturridge’s move to Anfield in January 2013, they have a higher win percentage (60) and have scored more goals per game (2.38) when he has played than when he has not.