Mourinho relishes the chance to silence Liverpool supporters again

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The Independent Football

Jose Mourinho has told the Liverpool fans to be silent once already this season, but with a famous Anfield atmosphere in prospect tonight the Chelsea manager yesterday invited the Kop to make as much noise as they could. The new Premiership champions, their manager said, were unafraid of claiming their European Cup final place in one of the most imposing football stadiums in the competition's history.

Jose Mourinho has told the Liverpool fans to be silent once already this season, but with a famous Anfield atmosphere in prospect tonight the Chelsea manager yesterday invited the Kop to make as much noise as they could. The new Premiership champions, their manager said, were unafraid of claiming their European Cup final place in one of the most imposing football stadiums in the competition's history.

Since Mourinho made his infamous shushing gesture to the Liverpool support during the Carling Cup final in February his team has already added another title, but it would not be like Anfield to forget the slight. Yesterday, both Mourinho and Rafael Benitez insisted that the pressure to triumph in the Premiership's private European battle fell on their opponents and yet they could scarcely deny that defeat would scar both their seasons.

Despite Mourinho's protests that, regardless of the score, his team will return to Stamford Bridge on Saturday as "heroes" it was impossible not to feel that the edge will be taken off their title parade if they lose a second successive Champions' League semi-final tonight. For Benitez, defeat brings the prospect of fifth place and the loss next season of the revenue and status that accompanies a place in the Champions' League.

While neither was prepared to stake the future of his side on tonight's result, it was Mourinho who faced the more prosaic question of team selection after Damien Duff made a public exit from training at Anfield. Privately, Chelsea have left the final decision until today but Tiago looks the most likely replacement with Eidur Gudjohnsen switching to the left wing and Joe Cole occupying the right.

"My players will be affected in a positive way," Mourinho said. "In my first year in England I have experienced some fantastic atmospheres in stadiums. Of course the atmosphere is in favour of the home team but you have to play football. I relish the hostility from the fans but they don't play. There are 11 players on each side.

"The pressure is on them. I think we will go back to London as heroes. Independent of the result when we play against Charlton my players will be received as heroes because they gave the fans a championship. I can imagine Anfield if Liverpool lose. I can imagine the significance for their supporters so I think the pressure is on them."

Mourinho had bemoaned the proximity of tonight's game to the victory on Saturday which had allowed his team just one hour's celebration - "no families, no wives, no kids, no dinner, no champagne, nothing to enjoy" - before they had to begin preparations afresh. He dismissed the magnitude of the achievement that awaits him - winning two successive European Cups with different teams - but said his team had not been affected by the exhausting pursuit of the Premiership.

"They have more power in their legs but we have more power in our minds from winning the championship," Mourinho said. "It is more difficult to win the Premiership than the Champions' League. You have to go all over the country in all conditions, in wind and rain, sleet and hail, on good pitches and bad ones and in the north and the south, and all the time under pressure from United and Arsenal."

The Chelsea manager bridled at the mention of the referee Lubos Michel, the Slovakian who presided over Porto's 2003 Uefa Cup final win over Celtic. Benitez said that he was aware that Michel met with Mourinho's approval for his performance in that game.

The Liverpool manager concentrated upon the value of Steven Gerrard, whom he confidently predicted would eclipse even Chelsea's indomitable midfield. But he also made reference to the inequality in financial resources between his club and Chelsea.

"They must win. If you see the squad and money they are the most consistent," he said. "There is no pressure because we are playing against Chelsea. We have confidence we can beat Chelsea in one game. If we win it will be fantastic.

"Chelsea play compactly with Makelele, Gudjohnsen, Tiago and Lampard. Steve is a good player because he can beat them. For me he is better than them. It is a massive game for them as well. When you spend so much money then normally you need to win."

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