Gerrard: 'Chelsea will want revenge'

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The Independent Online

Put aside the fever that surrounded Liverpool's epic Champions' League semi-final tie with Chelsea last season, and even the supreme irony of Gerrard's own goal against them in the Carling Cup final - and imagine the England midfielder facing his former team-mates in a blue shirt on 28 September. The prospect of their former captain attempting to end the defence of Liverpool's fifth European Cup - one that he did so much to win for them - would have been a cause for despair at Anfield and a serious source of discomfort for Gerrard.

Instead, the Liverpool hierarchy were in Monaco yesterday to see their captain receive his award from European football's governing body, Uefa, as the most valuable player in last season's competition before they were drawn against Chelsea for the most eagerly anticipated tie of the group stages.

There will be a return for Diego Forlan, with Villarreal, to Manchester United and Rangers have the opportunity to show Celtic the best way to beat Artmedia Bratislava after they were drawn against their rivals' conquerors but all eyes will be on Anfield for the first all-English match in a month's time.

Liverpool's chairman, David Moores, looked on like the proud father at a school prize-giving as Gerrard talked of his "shock" at winning the Uefa award but there were more surprises in store when club after club was drawn out and the creeping prospect of the two teams meeting hardened into the inevitable. When Uefa found a way for the defending champions to be included in this season's competition they had to take from Liverpool the status that prevents other teams from facing clubs from their own countries.

Gerrard said: "Our players were talking about it on the way over for the game. Once a few teams came out of the pot it seemed inevitable we were going to draw Chelsea. It is very exciting. It is going to be very tough. They are a fantastic team. Let's hope both can qualify from the group.

"We played against Chelsea a lot last year, so we know a lot about them and vice versa. The atmosphere is going to be special but these are the games you want to play in. I am really looking forward to both games. We don't need to fear anyone after the way we played in the Champions' League last year. We need to show proper respect. It is a very tricky group, but we just have to make sure we progress.

"I am sure Chelsea do want revenge but we want to beat them as well. Ideally, we didn't want to meet anyone from England. These are very tricky games, but it's done now. We just look forward to the games and try to get as many points as possible."

Liverpool tonight face the Uefa Cup winners, CSKA Moscow, in the Super Cup final, but Gerrard said he would not play in the showpiece match in order to give himself the best chance to recover from a calf injury in time for England's World Cup qualifier against Wales on 3 September.

"With two big internationals coming up next week, I have to be careful and try to get myself fit for Wales," he said. "It's only a niggle. With all due respect to the Super Cup, it's not massively important."

Described by Gerrard as "a big week", there will be the prospect of two matches between the two sides in five days when Chelsea visit Anfield again on 2 October on the Sunday after their first Champions' League game on the previous Wednesday. Liverpool begin their title defence on 13 September away at Real Betis, the Spanish Cup winners who finished fourth in La Liga while Chelsea play Anderlecht at home.

Mourinho did not attend the awards ceremony in Monaco, and Petr Cech and John Terry were the only two award-winners not to pick up their prizes in person, in what appeared to be a continuation of the feud Mourinho had with Uefa last season. He played down the significance of drawing Liverpool but said that his club had a "dangerous group" because of the reputations of the smaller teams.

He said: "This is a very dangerous group for us. Not because of Liverpool, as all the teams in the top group were dangerous, no matter who we got, but because among the smaller teams, we drew Anderlecht and Betis. Anderlecht have a big history in Europe with much experience of the Champions' League. It is the debut for Betis but they are very strong, one of the best teams in Spain."

With the Spanish international winger Joaquin and Brazilian international striker Ricardo Oliveira in their side, Real Betis will prove a stiff test for both English sides and their group looks harder than the one drawn by United who face Lille and Benfica as well as Villarreal. There are few players with more to prove at Old Trafford than Forlan, bought in January 2002 for £7m and sold 20 months later for £2m after scoring just 10 goals in 63 Premiership appearances.

The Uruguay international has been at the centre of Villarreal's historic season and beat Thierry Henry to the title of Europe's top scorer - a feat that astounded those who watched him misfiring for United. The tie with Benfica will have a special resonance for United: the Portuguese champions were beaten by Sir Matt Busby's side at Wembley to win the club's first European Cup in 1968.

Arsenal have drawn Ajax, Sparta Prague and competition newcomers FC Thun in a group they should progress through comfortably. The club's vice-chairman, David Dein, said that winning the Champions' League was an "unfulfilled ambition", however he "doubted" there would be any new signings before the transfer window closes on Wednesday night.

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