Rafael Benitez expects to be able to set about Liverpool's monumental Champions League challenge at Chelsea tomorrow night with Steven Gerrard playing from the start.
Benitez will need to use his captain sparingly during the run-in, a factor which adds to the tension on Merseyside as Liverpool continue to outperform Manchester United, but his gamble on leaving him on the bench for Saturday's league encounter with Blackburn Rovers has paid off, with Gerrard (right) not needed. "The risk was there but he has got more chances [of playing Chelsea] now," Benitez said of Gerrard, who has slightly strained an adductor muscle in his groin. "The physio will work with him, so hopefully he'll be there." The seven-day break between the Stamford Bridge second leg and Arsenal's arrival at Anfield in the league provides the recuperation Gerrard would need from a major contribution to what will need to be one of their greatest comebacks to progress to another semi-final.
Gerrard seems to have returned from England duty with the strain, the latest in a string of groin problems to have affected him this season. Benitez had been prepared to use him if necessary on Saturday, with the prospect of overturning Chelsea's 3-1 first leg lead seemingly more remote than catching United, who regained the title ascendancy in unconvincing fashion with their 2-1 win at Sunderland.
Fernando Torres, whose two goals against Rovers took his tally to 11 in 19 league starts, said the manner of Liverpool's victory had lifted hopes that they can score the three they need in west London. "We have kept our confidence after the Champions League game," Torres said. "I think Chelsea will play for a win. If they score one or two it is over, so they will not just defend."
Michael Essien, whose command of Gerrard was crucial in the first leg, will be fit for tomorrow, having been rested on Saturday. Hiddink is almost certain to start him against Liverpool, having seen the difference without him on Saturday.
Torres, anonymous and looking tired after scoring Liverpool's opener at Anfield last Wednesday, has admitted that his preparations for next season must be better than this. "I will try and get enough rest. It is just four or five games [left]," he said. "But we have to talk at Liverpool about the next pre-season and try and do the right things."
Benitez can only wait and hope his two main assets make it through and believes the Premier League may have had a different complexion had Torres been fitter throughout. "We have had some games this season that ended in draws that, had Fernando been playing, it could have made a massive difference," he said.Reuse content