Marseille's song strikes sour note with Houllier

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Celebrating before the job is done never did sit comfortably with the Anfield ethos of fighting to the finish. Bob Paisley once recalled how a rival manager gloated after beating Liverpool that his team were "in a different league". By the end of the season, said Paisley, they were.

Celebrating before the job is done never did sit comfortably with the Anfield ethos of fighting to the finish. Bob Paisley once recalled how a rival manager gloated after beating Liverpool that his team were "in a different league". By the end of the season, said Paisley, they were.

Now it is Gérard Houllier's turn to caution against basking in the glory of a task half completed. The Marseille players were so ecstatic to draw 1-1 in the first leg of their Uefa Cup fourth-round tie that they chanted in their dressing-room in a manner which affronted the Liverpool manager's sense of professionalism.

"I felt it was premature and indecent," Houllier complained after Liverpool arrived in the warmer climes of Provence yesterday to prepare for tonight's second leg in the Stade Vélodrome. "I remember once a team winning 4-1 in the first leg of a European tie and doing a lap of honour afterwards. They lost on aggregate.

"Even when you win 1-0 away from home you never get carried away. For my players it is a matter of pride. Marseille have already done half my team talk for me."

His team have already got the message. Sami Hyypia, the former captain, said they had been well aware of the racket coming from the Marseille players. "Maybe they think they're through," the Finnish defender reflected, "but it's a bit early for that."

Liverpool come into the game ­ which carries the prize of a quarter-final against Benfica or Internazionale ­ on the back of two wins in the Premiership. With nine domestic fixtures left, they occupy the coveted pole position to take the fourth Champions' League place. Yet there is no question of their wanting to focus exclusively on that objective.

"Our target has to be to finish fourth and go as far as possible in this competition," Houllier said. The memory of 2000-01 still acts a spur, for he drew a parallel between Hyypia's late winner against Wolves on Saturday and a significant moment from that spring. "It was the first time we'd won from a set-piece in the final minute since Gary McAllister's winner at Everton that year, and that season was successful."

So much so that Liverpool not only captured three cups but reached the Champions' League, proving it is possible to advance on more than one front. A 0-0 draw here would eliminate them on the away-goal rule. However, they have scored in all but one of their last 10 European away matches, and Houllier is confident they will do so again.

"It's an interesting and exciting situation," the Frenchman said. "We know we need a goal. Whether Marseille will sit back and wait, I don't know. They were a bit lucky at Anfield. They didn't make many chances. All I do know is that our strike force will score. But we have to manage the game. We didn't have our normal freshness in the home leg."

Michael Owen makes his 50th appearance for Liverpool in Europe, as does Jamie Carragher. Owen will renew hostilities with Fabien Barthez, the former Manchester United goalkeeper, who was at his eccentric worst in the 4-3 defeat by Rennes last weekend.

Steve Marlet, on loan from Fulham, and Sébastian Perez, formerly of Blackburn, are likely to be on the Marseille bench. Marlet has been eclipsed by Didier Drogba, whose 22 goals this season include the late leveller which sparked the dressing-room din at Anfield a fortnight ago.

Marseille (3-5-2; probable): Barthez; Beye, Hemdani, Meite; Ferrera, Ndiaye, Johansen. Batlles, Dos Santos; Mido, Drogba.

Liverpool (4-4-2; probable): Dudek; Carragher, Biscan, Hyypia, Riise; Murphy, Hamann, Gerrard, Kewell; Owen, Heskey.

Referee: A Inbanez (Spain).

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