Liverpool ready for potential all-English final
Liverpool must overturn a one-goal deficit against Atletico Madrid in their Europa League semi-final second leg to set up a final clash against either Fulham or Hamburg.
AFP - Rafael Benitez expects Liverpool to produce another memorable Anfield comeback in their Europa League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid on Thursday.
Benitez's side were well below their best as they lost the first leg 1-0 at the Vicente Calderon Stadium last week, courtesy of a Diego Forlan goal, but the Reds boss is convinced they can erase that deficit to set up a final clash against Fulham or Hamburg.
The Spanish coach can take heart from the fact that Liverpool have already come from behind on several occasions in this season's Europa League.
In the quarter-finals they were 2-1 down after the first leg against Benfica before claiming a 5-3 aggregate victory on Merseyside, while in the last 16 they also lost the first meeting 1-0 against Lille before eventually winning 3-1.
Benitez also knows Liverpool's appearances in the 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals were achieved in large part thanks to the fans' ability to turn Anfield into such a cauldron of noise that their team played above themselves while the opposition lost composure.
"I have a lot of confidence of playing at Anfield, in our players and in our fans," Benitez said.
"We had a lot of fans behind the team and that was very positive, and at Anfield we will have more of them."
"We’ve been in the same situation before and we’ve found out we can win, so hopefully it will be the same again.
"I also think in the past we’ve been losing 1-0 in games down the years and we were in that final, so that’s quite positive.
"We know that it will be difficult because 1-0 is always a dangerous score, but we are still confident.
"We've done it in the past and we have to approach the game with this confidence and it would then be easier for us to play better and to score more goals."
With Spain striker Fernando Torres not fit to face his former club, Benitez will hope Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt is available to start.
Kuyt has been receiving treatment for the calf injury he suffered in Sunday’s 4-0 victory over Burnley, and if he is unavailable, David Ngog will have to carry Liverpool's attacking burden despite also struggling with a back problem.
Very few sides come to Anfield on a European night and leave with a victory under their belts but Atletico's Portuguese winger Sabrosa Simao is backing his side to change that.
Atletico beat Tenerife 3-1 in La Liga on Sunday to get back into the top half of the table and end a run of three consecutive home defeats - they are also in the final of the Spanish Cup against Sevilla next month.
"It would be fantastic to get to play two finals because no one knows when we will have this opportunity again," Simao said.
"We are very happy, but we do not think about the double. We know that the finals are to be won. This is a semi-final but for us it is like a final.
We must have faith. We are in the final 90 minutes. Moreover, we have a one-goal advantage and we know what playing at Anfield is like because last year we played there in the Champions League.
"We are ready and focused. We are optimistic. We will play our game."
Injured defender Emiliano Insua will be absent for Liverpool, while Atletico will be buoyed by the return of Sergio Aguero, who is eligible for the second leg after missing the first match due to suspension.