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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 15, 2006

Benitez assured ahead of Bridge visit

Rafael Benitez believes Liverpool are 'ready' for another showdown with Chelsea which could reveal whether his summer spending spree has begun to bridge the gap with the champions.

The Reds may well have won their last two games against Jose Mourinho's men, in the Community Shield and last season's FA Cup semi-final, but the Blues boss would dismiss those defeats as merely cup action.

The real thing - Premiership points - have so far proven elusive to boss Benitez and his men.

Liverpool face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday without a single point from four league meetings between the clubs since the Spaniard and his Portuguese antagonist first crossed swords in their adopted English home three season ago.

Benitez wants to end that run and foster better relations with Mourinho following the pair's failure to indulge in the traditional post-match handshake after recent games.

This will be the 12th time the clubs have clashed in the Mourinho-Benitez era and Benitez is prepared for the latest instalment.

'We are ready now for Chelsea,' he said. 'You can never be sure because Chelsea are a very good team but we feel ready and we are planning to go there and win.

'I have no problem shaking hands, I'll give him (Mourinho) the opportunity to shake hands if he wants.'

Benitez will no doubt rotate his squad again, and it appears certain captain Steven Gerrard - left out of the starting line-up on Tuesday for the Champions League draw with PSV Eindhoven - will start the match.

Who Benitez opts to play in central defence is another matter.

Daniel Agger played very well there in the Community Shield success in Cardiff in August, and was outstanding in the Reds' first clean sheet of the season against PSV.

This could earn him the nod over the veteran Sami Hyypia.

Benitez said: 'Now we will see who is ahead. For Eindhoven, Danny was ahead of Sami in my thinking. But that may not be the case in the future. Other times, Sami will be the one in the forefront.

'Danny did very well in Holland, but that was one match, Sami has done well for several years at Liverpool. Everything depends on who we play and how we analyse what is needed.

'Danny has quality and played well against Eindhoven - we will have to decide who plays on Sunday.'

Full-back Steve Finnan sees the Chelsea match as crucial to Liverpool's early-season confidence, saying: 'Now it's Chelsea next and we haven't got the best results against them at Stamford Bridge in the league over the last few years, so we it will be nice to put that record right.

'We need to kick on in the league now, so it's important that we get something there. I don't go along with the theory that if we lose there we can forget about the title. It's only our fourth game and we can go on to do well.

'But, if we want to be contenders - even if it won't be a deciding match - we need to start winning matches there.'