Benitez waits on stricken Baros

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The Independent Football

The Liverpool striker Milan Baros is hopeful of featuring in tomorrow's Champions' League semi-final against Chelsea despite revealing the seriousness of his knee injury.

The Liverpool striker Milan Baros is hopeful of featuring in tomorrow's Champions' League semi-final against Chelsea despite revealing the seriousness of his knee injury.

The 23-year-old Czech international needed four stitches in a knee wound after being caught by a tackle by the Crystal Palace captain, Tony Popovic, in Saturday's Premiership defeat at Selhurst Park.

Liverpool believe Baros should recover sufficiently to travel to Stamford Bridge for the semi-final first leg tomorrow, but the player admitted he was concerned.

"We shall see," Baros said. "I do not mind the stitches, but if it is as painful as on Saturday, I will not be able to play.

"I have had it stitched and it is swollen. The knee cap and ligaments are all right but my bone was kicked and it hurts a lot. I even saw the bone. It was very unpleasant sight.

"But we are in England, the soccer is tough. Plus Palace are fighting against relegation, so they have to fight hard."

Another player to suffer from the combative nature of the British game is Xabi Alonso. The last time he saw Chelsea at close quarters he ended up with a broken ankle which threatened to ruin his first season in England. But his recovery from that Frank Lampard tackle on New Year's Day has been far quicker than expected. The Spain international has been back in Liverpool's midfield in the last two weeks as the Anfield club chase a place in the Champions' League final.

Alonso insists he does not blame Lampard for the three months he spent on the sidelines watching Liverpool's erratic season unfold. Few outside Merseyside believe Liverpool can eliminate Chelsea, having lost to them three times already this season. But Alonso is more confident.

"Once you have beaten Juventus you have confidence you can beat anyone," he said. "That success in the quarter-finals, following the victory in Leverkusen in the previous round, gives us great confidence. I know our fans will be wanting us to beat them because of what has happened in the other games against Chelsea this season.

"But we have to make sure we win because we deserve it, because of our performance on the pitch. It's a huge game because it's the Champions' League semi-final, not just because it is against Chelsea."

Of the moment when Lampard's tackle broke his ankle, Alonso said: "I have almost forgotten about the tackle now. I have recovered well and I am just pleased to be in the semi-finals.

"I wasn't really upset with Lampard at the time because these things happen in football.

"You never know, it could happen to me tackling another player at some time so I don't blame him.

"I have spoken to Frank a couple of times and there is no problem between us, it is not a problem for me."

Lampard, in fact, contacted Alonso to apologise, so when the pair meet again at Stamford Bridge tomorrow, the progress of their clubs will be their only incentive. And Alonso believes Liverpool can repeat the sort of performance which defied the might of Juventus in the Stadio delle Alpi last week.

He said: "We have the confidence to repeat our performances against Juventus - we played so well and did everything we needed for victory.

"It was great for me to make my comeback in such an important game in Turin, it was a wonderful evening and the match went better than I could have hoped for, I felt no problems with my ankle."

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