Ferguson delighted with Porto draw

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The Independent Online

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry believes past meetings will have little impact on the latest Champions League meeting between the Reds and Chelsea.

The two sides were paired together for the fourth time in recent years at this mornings quarter-final draw in Nyon, Switzerland.

Liverpool were victorious on the first two occasions, but Chelsea finally got the better of the Anfield side on the way to the final last year.

Parry told Sky Sports News: "We know what we've got to do over the two legs. We know what we're capable of doing so we will get on with it now

The second leg will take place at Stamford Bridge, but Parry added: "I don't think that bothers us. I don't think it makes a significant difference.

"It's not about historical form, it's about form at this stage of the season. Obviously at the moment we're coming in to form so fingers crossed we are peaking nicely and if we can keep everybody fit we're optimistic."

Parry has confirmed the game will not take place on the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, Wednesday April 15.

Confirming the clash would take place the previous day, he told Setanta Sports: ""I'm literally just getting news that we will be playing on the 14th. It is a huge relief and a good outcome."

Chelsea secretary David Barnard admitted the two sides knew each other very well from their previous meetings.

"We probably know the inside leg measurements of Rafa's (Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez) trousers. It's something that's completely extraordinary they should play so many times," he said.

Barnard believes having the second leg at home, as it was last year, could give the Blues the advantage.

"In theory it should help us being away first," he added. "We were successful last year in the semi-final whereas in the previous semi-finals we were hampered with the second leg (which was at Anfield).

"On all three occasions in the semi the team away first got through."

The winners of Chelsea and Liverpool will play either Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the semi-final and Barnard is relieved not to have the prospect of another Premier League club in the last four.

"Absolutely," he said. "Of course we played United in the final last year. This year we avoided them. If we do get through we are quite happy for that."

Manchester United secretary Ken Ramsden insists his side have not got an easy tie after being drawn against Porto in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Ramsden admits United were lucky to avoid European heavyweights such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich, who have been paired against each other in one of the other ties, but claims they will not underestimate their opponents.

United will play their first leg at home on April 7 before the return in Portugal eight days later.

"We should be pleased, it's a good draw," Ramsden told Sky Sports News. "In a perfect world we would have preferred to be away but the draw is what the draw is and we've got to make the most of it.

"They've got great pedigree and we've got great respect for them. This is not an easy tie."

Liverpool take on Chelsea in an all-English affair, with the first leg on April 8, and Ramsden is delighted to have avoided one of United's Premier League rivals.

"Speaking personally I'm a traditionalist so in Europe I like to play European teams," he continued. "But with four English teams it's inevitable that will happen - but it didn't happen to us."

United will face either Arsenal or Villarreal if they manage to dispatch Porto and Ramsden admits that would be a relishing prospect.

He added: "It will be if we get that far!"

United are in the hunt for an unprecedented quintuple and Ramsden is hoping the memory of last year's Champions League victory in Moscow can spur them on.

"Having won last year you're reminded just how important it is, we've still got the joy from Moscow," he said. "It's a very nice feeling."

There is a very real prospect that this year's finalists will be the same as last year's which saw United triumph over Chelsea on penalties.

However, Ramsden insists he's not thinking that far ahead.

"It's a long way off," he said. "There's a great chance of that happening. We just hope we're one of them."

Sir Alex Ferguson expressed his pleasure with United's draw with Porto.

The reigning European champions would face Arsenal or Villarreal in the semi-finals, should they overcome Porto, and have avoided Liverpool who face Chelsea, plus Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Ferguson said: "This is a good draw for us, we've met Porto before and obviously we respect any Portuguese team.

"We have had a huge Portuguese influence in the club firstly with Carlos Queiroz but now with Cristiano (Ronaldo) and Nani so we understand Portuguese football."

United will play the second leg in Porto but Ferguson insists that should not be a problem.

He said: "You sometimes wonder if being at home first is a good or a bad thing but I think in this modern-day competition there is no indication of what is better, the only thing you hope is that you don't lose a goal in the home tie.

"We are happy with the draw and we are looking forward to the next round."

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has urged his players to draw on the strength of character they showed in the previous round against Roma if they are to overcome Villarreal.

A dramatic 7-6 penalty shootout victory saw Arsenal squeeze into the quarter-finals after the tie had ended 1-1 on aggregate.

And Gazidis is looking for a similar determination against the Spanish side.

"The one thing we do believe is not just the quality of our team but also the character of our team," he told Sky Sports News. "And I think we saw a little bit of that in that really difficult environment out in Rome where young player after young player stepped up and made their penalty kicks.

"We'll have to draw on those reserves of character to get by Villarreal.

"This journey is a challenge for us. Every team is here on merit and there is a reason why every team is here. So Villarreal are going to be a big challenge. We're laser focused on the next round."

The tie is a repeat of the semi-final in 2006 which Arsenal won thanks in part to a Jens Lehmann penalty save in the last minute.

Gazidis hopes it will be a less dramatic affair this time around.

He added: "We think we can get a result but when we played them in 2006 we only just squeaked by 1-0 on aggregate and I think it's going to be a difficult test.

"I hope it's not quite so dramatic this time. We've had our share of drama but I'm sure there'll be a lot more."

Arsenal might be stuttering in the Barclays Premier League, where they are 13 points behind leaders Manchester United, who have a game in hand, but they are still in the hunt for two other trophies as, as well as the Champions League, they are also in the FA Cup semi-finals.

And Gazidis claims this could be the Gunners' year.

"We've never lost our belief in ourselves," he explained. "Our players believe in themselves and we believe in them.

"We've got a superb group of young players and we still believe there is potential for a really great season for Arsenal this year.

"We've proven we can play against the very best, we've beaten Chelsea and Manchester United this year, so we can beat anyone on our day.

"The question for us has to be as the players come back and we reintegrate them seamlessly back into our squad, can we allow our quality to rise to the surface?

"Coupled with our character and belief in ourselves we can go long way in all three of the competitions we're still in this year."

Should Arsenal and United both progress they will meet each other in a mouthwatering semi-final clash, but Gazidis insists he is not looking that far ahead.

"We can't think beyond Villarreal," he said. "The focus is just on that and we'll worry about the next step if we can get by the Yellow Submarine."

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