Cole wants early breakthrough to thwart Liverpool

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The Independent Online

Joe Cole is relishing the prospect of continuing his remarkable goalscoring run against Liverpool when the sides meet for the 10th time in two seasons in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford.

The England midfielder scored the only goal in both Premiership meetings last season and was on target again when Chelsea beat Rafa Benitez's side 4-1 at Anfield in October.

The former West Ham player insists that the familiarity between the two sides will make for a cagey affair, but Cole is determined to help Chelsea keep their League and Cup double ambitions alive.

"I think it will be tight," he predicted. "Liverpool are coming into a bit of form and their strikers are banging in the goals. It is on a neutral ground and it will be a real cagey affair. They're improving all the time and all seem to work hard and fight for the manager. They're always hard to play against but it made a difference going 2-1 up at Anfield the day we beat them 4-1 this season.

"Playing against a Liverpool side that has to come out and play against you is a lot different to playing against a Liverpool side that will sit back. It is what they are best at, catching you on the break. But whatever the game dictates, we know we can win and we just have to adjust."

The other omen for Cole and his side is his affinity with Old Trafford which has developed along with his England career. But while accepting the importance of the tie to Chelsea, Cole says he will not become over-excited by the hype.

"I love playing at Old Trafford," he said. "It is a magic ground. We play a lot of games there for England and it is special. With all the Chelsea fans there in force it will give us a good edge.

"It may be a semi-final but it just feels like another game. We are always playing big games here at Chelsea with high pressure. It's another one of those and another one we have to win."

The FA Cup remains the only major domestic trophy Chelsea have not secured since Mourinho took charge in the summer of 2004.

"To win the League is the main thing but to add a Cup would add extra spice,"Cole said. "If we can win both it will be a brilliant season, but every English player wants to win the FA Cup, so to get to the final is very important to us."

Jamie Carragher has warned Liverpool that they will have to beat Chelsea if they want to win any of the big trophies. The Liverpool and England defender faced up to the challenge that will confront his side by telling his team-mates with unusual bluntness: "Get used to it."

One victory in their last nine games against Chelsea - admittedly their Champions' League semi-final win last season - is not a good return, Carragher believes, but he maintains that learning to overcome Chelsea has to be the focus for the Anfield club.

"To win the FA Cup we'd have to beat Chelsea anyway," he said. "If we had got one of the other teams, you'd expect Chelsea to be in the final. Everything you want to do now, you are going to have to beat Chelsea. To win the European Cup, we had to beat Chelsea.

"To win the FA Cup we'll have to beat Chelsea and to win the League, you are going to have to beat them.

"All this stuff about hoping not to play them - just play them. You have to beat them to win things. That is the way it is."

Carragher is already working in his own mind on what is needed to overcome the champions. He said: "We will have to keep it tight at the back, because they do the same. We are similar because we are both strong at the back.

"You cannot afford to waste any opportunities because there shouldn't be too many in the game. To beat Chelsea you are probably going to have to keep a clean sheet. That is what we are looking to do."

He added: "I enjoy playing in these games because they are the best team in the country and one of the best in Europe.

"We realise it's going to be difficult and we are going to be underdogs. We have played nine times and won only once, but that was the most important of all. This will also be very important and hopefully we can win it again."

Carragher, though, is more than happy with Liverpool's progress this season and the fact they have qualified for the Champions' League three weeks before the end of the season. He said: "To secure qualification so quickly is a good achievement, particularly when you look at how difficult it has been to qualify in recent seasons.

"It is a sign of how much we have improved to go up two places in one season. Hopefully, we can go up another two next term.

"We have managed to add ourselves to the Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea group who have been dominating the Premiership," Carragher added.

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