Chelsea head for Anfield cauldron with the confidence of champions

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The Independent Online

The new Premiership champions began life at the top of English football yesterday but while their status has changed, the principles that have served Jose Mourinho so well remain the same. After the euphoria of Bolton it was training as usual as preparations began for tomorrow's Champions' League semi-final second leg against Liverpool.

The new Premiership champions began life at the top of English football yesterday but while their status has changed, the principles that have served Jose Mourinho so well remain the same. After the euphoria of Bolton it was training as usual as preparations began for tomorrow's Champions' League semi-final second leg against Liverpool.

Wednesday's goalless draw at Stamford Bridge may have added an element of uncertainty into Chelsea minds, but it was swept away with the emotion of victory on Saturday evening and the club's first title in 50 years. "Now we're going to Anfield as champions," said Chelsea's match-winner Frank Lampard. "If that doesn't fill you with confidence, nothing will."

Mourinho will have to deal with serious injury problems - not least the doubts over his two left wingers Damien Duff and Arjen Robben - but his decision to play a full-strength team to seal the title now looks like a confidence-generating masterstroke.

I can't see why we can't go on from this to win the Champions' League," Joe Cole said. "Why not? We'll be going to Liverpool and we'll be flying now. We just want to get out there. It's a fantastic feeling. We thought we'd won it after the Arsenal game but now it's actually happened it's a dream come true - for all of us. It's different class and it's hard to believe it's actually happened."

While Chelsea seized the moment at the Reebok Stadium with two goals from Lampard, Liverpool stumbled to a fifth home draw, against Middlesbrough, albeit one that saw them cut the gap with Everton in fourth place to three points. Mourinho, who prevented his players from over-indulging in their celebrations, to the extent that champagne was restricted to one glass each, kept his side at a hotel in Preston yesterday to prepare for tomorrow's match.

John Terry said: "Believe me, when we get there [to Anfield] and see our fans and their fans, any little bit of tiredness you feel will go out of the window. It's such a big night, such a big occasion.

"Last year we got knocked out at this stage of the competition. It's one of the worst feelings I've ever experienced and I don't want to go through that again. I know it will be the same for all the other lads who were here last year. That's why we're so determined to get through and go all the way to the final.

"I think we've shown by beating Barcelona and Bayern Munich that we can mix it with the best and are up there with them. World-wide we're very well respected and we've shown that for the last two years. It's now down to us to go the stage further."

The issue of Robben's fitness will be crucial to Mourinho, who is understood to have privately expressed his dismay at the Dutchman's refusal to play against Liverpool last week because of an ankle injury. However, Robben said that he would be prepared to risk his season tomorrow in order to make sure Chelsea reach the final in Istanbul on 25 May.

Robben said: "For my body, it's best to rest. But you know that you have to play now. Tuesday is such an important game. You can wait until you are 100 per cent but you might be playing for nothing. I will try of course. I know it's a risk, but we have to see if we are ready for Tuesday.

"I am working hard to get possible to be fit for that game. I can only try and for us it will now be the most important game to play because the League is over."

William Gallas also admitted that he has been taking anti-inflammatory pills to treat pain in his back but said that he should be fit to face Liverpool. Unusually, Mourinho left the Reebok Stadium without talking to the press but in a television interview he said that he had spoken to his family on the telephone after the match and could not resist criticising the fixture schedulers who gave him a later kick-off than Liverpool.

Peter Kenyon said that the club were determined to keep Mourinho beyond the terms of his current three-year contract after the Chelsea manager said that he would like to commit his future to the club. The Chelsea chief executive added that they would not bring in more than three players in the summer and repeated his insistence that Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand would not be a target.

Steven Gerrard promised that tomorrow's game would be "the biggest of my life". "It's going to be massive and everyone has done nothing but talk about it since last Wednesday," Gerrard said. "The atmosphere is going to be special. There is no doubt that it is the biggest game of my life and I'm sure it's the same for every other player here at Liverpool Football Club."

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