Benitez: you will lose, Jose

LIVERPOOL manager Rafael Benitez paid tribute to Jose Mourinho before insisting the Chelsea manager will be on the losing side when the teams meet tonight in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final.

Asked continually whether the 'special one' was the world's best coach, having now won the Premier League title to add to a string of European and domestic triumphs with Porto, Benitez cut to the point. Told "in three years he has not stopped winning," Benitez responded: "Until tomorrow.

"Jose is one of the best coaches. He has a good team and he is a good manager so if you put together both those things you have a winning formula.

"He works hard and knows the game, but we will try to do the same. It is difficult to say if he is the best coach, he is one of the best, sure. He has a very good team, sure. But they will lose tomorrow," Benitez said last night.

Benitez will turn to his talismanic skipper Steven Gerrard the player Chelsea have coveted for so long to be the key to Liverpool reaching the May 25 final in Istanbul. Benitez is increasingly convinced he will not lose his star man and has called on Gerrard to stamp his reputation on tonight's game.

"Steve will be the key player for us. He can change a game and you saw against Middlesbrough the kind of goals he can score, and I am sure he will play well.

"He knows that the fans are behind him and he is the key player. He is fantastic, he can change the game."

Benitez knows there will be passion from the terraces, and believes his erratic side can confound England's new champions.

"We feel we have a good team, even if we are playing against one of the best teams in the world, they have spent a lot of money on good players. They have a lot going for them, but this is a challenge for us to beat them.

"We showed a European mentality at Stamford Bridge last week in the first leg and now we know we have our supporters behind us, it will make a difference," said Benitez.

How Benitez confronts this critical match in his first season at Anfield, team wise, remains to be seen. He could be true to form and play just one striker, Milan Baros, with five across the middle.

He said: "You need a clear idea against a good team, they have good wingers, a good centre forward and excellent midfielders, maybe it will take to the last minute but we can achieve what we want.

"We will miss Xabi (Alonso) but we can play with two strikers, or use Didi (Hamann) and Igor (Biscan) alongside Stevie Gerrard. Even three strikers, we have plenty of possibilities."

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