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Benitez's Anfield return fails to ruffle Rodgers

The Liverpool boss says he is unfazed by taking on his Chelsea counterpart, who won a host of trophies during his time in charge of the Reds

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 April, 2013, 6:11am

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists he is not intimidated by former Reds boss Rafael Benitez as the Chelsea manager prepares for an emotional return to Anfield today.

The walls at Anfield and also at Liverpool's Melwood training ground are covered with iconic images of the club's domestic and European triumphs during Benitez's reign.

Chief among them is the Champions League final success in 2005, when Benitez's Liverpool side famously fought back from 3-0 down against AC Milan in Istanbul to win on penalties.

But ahead of the Spaniard's first return to Liverpool since his 2010 departure, Rodgers admitted he was not unsettled trying to match Benitez's achievements.

"They are not intimidating for me," Rodgers said when asked about the pictures of Benitez. "I said to the players, 'Your job is to put yourself on the wall here'.

"If I was only worried about myself then maybe having people around with great histories would worry me. But it doesn't one bit.

"This club is full of great legends with guys like Alan Kennedy who work on match days, Ian Rush, Jan Molby, John Aldridge, all great guys around the place. That doesn't intimidate me."

Benitez, who also won the FA Cup with Liverpool in 2006 and guided them to another Champions League final defeat against AC Milan a year later, should get a fine reception from his old club's supporters.

Benitez has found friends hard to come by at Stamford Bridge following his controversial comments about the Blues during his six-year reign at Liverpool. So it would be little surprise if Liverpool supporters sing his name far more often than their Chelsea counterparts today.

Benitez can't afford to be distracted by his emotional return as Chelsea seek the three points that will guarantee that the Blues hold on to third place ahead of the remaining five games of the campaign.

Benitez's side showed impressive resilience in recovering from the disappointment of losing the FA Cup semi-final to Manchester City to beat Fulham 3-0 midweek.

But with Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton also contesting for the final two places in next season's Champions League, a slip at Anfield could prove costly to Chelsea's ambitions.

"I will try to do the best for my team and that is Chelsea. I am a professional and that is what I have to do," Benitez said. "I cannot forget the time I spent there and the feeling, the atmosphere, the success, the link with the fans and the city - it is my home - but I will try to win. That is what I have to do.

"This will be quite emotional but I have to concentrate. It will not be easy when you see so many friends around but I will try to concentrate on the game.

"Normally I am not too emotional but now I'm getting older it happens sometimes."

Benitez's team selection will again come under scrutiny, particularly the decision of whether or not to include John Terry, who scored twice at Fulham in midweek but has rarely started two successive games under the Spaniard.

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