Benitez wants ref to be strong at Chelsea

April 29, 2008

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is hoping the referee in Wednesday's Champions League match against Chelsea gives his team a fair deal.

Italian official Roberto Rossetti has controlled five Champions League matches this season. All ended in home wins, with one exception - Chelsea's win over Valencia in Spain in October.

The teams go into tomorrow's semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge level, after John Arne Riise's injury-time own goal last week gave Avram Grant's men a 1-1 draw at Anfield.

Benitez said: 'In the last six games in Europe he has refereed, five times the local team have won and once they haven't. That was Valencia against Chelsea - it's very curious.

'If he knows he must be strong, that is okay.'

The Spaniard was also critical of Austrian referee Konrad Plautz for giving so much added time in the first leg.

He added today: 'I'm not bothered about how I'm judged - I'm more bothered about how we progress in the competition.

'We have focus and now we are trying to go to the final. We must do the right things.'

Benitez is in confident mood even though his team have never scored at Stamford Bridge in eight matches during his four years as manager, and for the Reds to reach Moscow on May 21 that must change as Chelsea hold a crucial away goal from the first leg, which finished 1-1.

But ahead of the showdown in west London Benitez insisted: 'We will score. We will win and we will get to the final.'

He admits for Liverpool to succeed at Stamford Bridge will rank among his greatest achievements as a manager, but he is bullish in the extreme as he prepares his side.

Defeat will end Liverpool's season early. Fourth spot in the Barclays Premier League is secured and all that will be left if Moscow is denied them is several more months of boardroom upheaval without the distractions of a third trip to the European Cup final in four seasons.

But Benitez said: 'The team is ready and focused, they are concentrating on the job and confident.

'I am not really worried about how people judge our season, I am only concerned about how we progress, and how we will feel after the game when we are happy with ourselves.

'We have guaranteed fourth position now, that has been our aim. Now we intend to go to the Champions League final.

'Our aim is always to win trophies, that's simple, and we intend to do so this season.'

This is Liverpool's ninth semi-final in this competition and they are aiming to reach their eighth final.

But they are also looking to record their first away victory at this stage of European competition in a tie when they failed to win the first leg at Anfield.

Benitez must also concern himself with the problem confronting the Scouse heartbeat of his side, with Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard one booking away from missing the final - a scenario which also faces Chelsea's John Terry.

This fear promoted Benitez to again highlight the antics of Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and what the Liverpool manager considered a poor performance from Austrian referee Konrad Plautz in the first leg.

The worrry at Anfield is Carragher, particularly, in his confrontation with Drogba could suffer an unfortunate or unjust booking.

As a result Turin-born referee Roberto Rosetti is in the firing line, with Benitez's turning the screw on the Italian.

'This referee has had six games in Europe this season, five times the home team has won and the other was when Chelsea won in Valencia. Maybe that is curious,' he said.

'The referee has experience, he is certainly not a bad referee. If he is strong at Stamford Bridge then things will be okay.

'The referee in the first leg was not good in virtually every decision but hopefully it will be different now.

'I was really disappointed about everything after the first leg but when I watched the match again on video I was very pleased with the performance of my team.

'I was happy with the work-rate. We played well and were the better team.

'Clearly Chelsea were lucky. Petr Cech saved them on several occasions. We had great opportunities, they were lucky.

'It will not be a fantastic achievement just to score there. But to win, yes, that will rank highly in my career and the players'.

Benitez added: 'I have said things about Drogba, about how easy it is for him to fall down. Everybody can see it every game, it is very clear.

'I hope the Italian referee, who has experience in Europe, will know what is going on and will be strong.'

But the Liverpool boss is certain he does not want Carragher or Gerrard to change their style.

'I know that Carragher and Gerrard could miss the final if they are booked, but the first thing for us is to progress,' he said.

'If you do not tackle because you fear you will miss the final, that is wrong. They know they need to play a normal game.

'It is not easy for them but they have experience and they know we have to get to the final.

'They have control and they know their tackles must be good - but they also know we need to be in the final.'