The video Rafa won't be playing - and one he will

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The Independent Online

In his eight months as Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez has taken to watching videos of the Anfield glory years by way of late-night relaxation. It is a fair bet that the club's last appearance in a European Cup final has not featured among the Spaniard's viewing.

In his eight months as Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez has taken to watching videos of the Anfield glory years by way of late-night relaxation. It is a fair bet that the club's last appearance in a European Cup final has not featured among the Spaniard's viewing.

The match was an irrelevance before it even began, the 39 deaths which occurred in the Heysel Stadium that May evening having rendered the 1985 final between Liverpool and Juventus a tragically inglorious occasion in the history of the European game.

Michel Platini scored the winning penalty and lifted the cup that night but, 20 years on, still cannot bring himself to discuss the match and the events surrounding it, even with his wife. "He never talks about it," Mme Platini said. "In his head is the fact that a Frenchman who died at Heysel had come to see him play."

Liverpool and Juventus will mark the occasion of their first meeting since that mournful night, in the quarter-finals of the Champions' League at Anfield on 5 April and at the Stadio delle Alpi a week later, with a minute's silence, the wearing of black armbands, and probably other suitable marks of respect to those who lost their lives in Brussels. It is, however, towards another European encounter in Liverpool's past that Benitez will be hoping to cast a reflective glance.

Should Benitez's boys overcome the odds and the zebras of Turin, and should Jose Mourinho's Chelsea maintain their momentum by seeing off Bayern Munich in their quarter-final, Liverpool would be facing English opposition in Europe's élite competition for the first time in 26 seasons. Not that their two-legged first round tie with Nottingham Forest back in September 1978 happens to be part of the Anfield glory collection.

Seeking to win the trophy for a third successive year, Bob Paisely's team were beaten by first-leg goals from Garry Birtles and Colin Barrett at the City Ground and were then finished off by some classic homespun psychology on the part of Brian Clough.

The Forest manager plied his players with drink en route to their hotel for the return leg, ensuring not only that they enjoyed a sound pre-match nap but that they were also relaxed for a high-pressure contest in which they famously held out for a goal-less draw.

Mourinho has been bracketed with Clough in the idiosyncratic motivation department, although it would be difficult to envisage the Portuguese eccentric plucking a similar approach off his particular wall - should he manage to guide Chelsea to what would be, after their derby dates with Arsenal in last year's quarter-finals, their second all-England challenge in successive Champions' League seasons.

As for Benitez, the latter-day manager of Liverpool is refusing to consider the prospect of a semi-final meeting with Chelsea - or with Bayern, for that matter. "For now, all we are thinking about in the Champions' League is the Juventus game," he insisted.

His tunnel vision is hardly surprising. Juventus accounted for the Galacticos of Real Madrid in the round of 16, losing 1-0 in the Bernabeu but prevailing 2-0 after extra-time in the return leg, thanks to goals by David Trézéguet and Marcelo Zalayeta. It was a triumph achieved without the pivotal influence of Pavel Nedved, whose knee problem is unlikely to keep him out of the quarter-final ties. It also maintained a formidable record in this season's competition by Fabio Capello's side.

Juve have only scored eight goals in their eight Champions' League matches, making them the 19th highest scorers in the competition, but Gianluigi Buffon has only conceded two goals at the rear of a defence tightened by the summer acquisition of Fabio Cannavaro.

Astonishingly, at the other end of the field, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has yet to make a goalscoring mark in the Champions' League for the Bianconeri, even though he has been shooting them into contention for a 28th Scudetto. The 23-year-old Swede has succeeded in relegating the Juve talisman Alessandro del Piero to a bit-part bench player since his £13.3m summer move from Ajax.

Ibrahimovic has been described as Sweden's answer to Paul Gascoigne but sees himself as more of a Muhammed Ali, even reciting some of the Louisville Lip's impromptu verse. When it comes to the two-legged bout with Liverpool, Benitez will be hoping he floats like a butterfly and stings like one too.

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