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Apr 13, 2009

Reds ready to risk Gerrard for Chelsea return

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is ready to risk injured captain Steven Gerrard for Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final, second leg at Chelsea.

Gerrard was sidelined for Liverpool's 4-0 Premier League victory over Blackburn Rovers with a groin injury on Saturday but Benitez confirmed on Monday his skipper was responding to treatment and will travel to London as the Red's attempt to overturn a 3-1 deficit at Stamford Bridge.

Benitez said: "Steven is getting better, he has been working with the physio and will train later today.

"We will then discuss the situation with the doctors, but Steven will travel with the party to London and I will make a decision tomorrow."

But it is becoming increasingly likely that Benitez will take the "calculated gamble" of using Gerrard from the start at Stamford Bridge.

He said: "Obviously we do not want him to break down again, he could then be out for 10 to 16 days. But the injury is not a massive one, it will be a calculated gamble to play him but one that I will consider.

"We are 3-1 down and we know that everything can change if we have Steven in the side and he plays well."

"The experience of Istanbul will help us, it shows you can come back from a big score. And it is important to realise that Bolton scored three there on Saturday, anything can happen.

"Steven is important, a key player for us. He has power and he can score goals."

He added: "We have already won at Stamford Bridge this season. We ended their long unbeaten home record and that is a massive boost to our confidence.

"We can do it, if we work together and we score in the first half. If we do not do that it becomes increasingly more difficult, mentally.

"If we score a second goal then they will be under real pressure. But we know we must be almost perfect.

"And we know that with Steven and Fernando (Torres) together on the pitch we do have a good chance.

"People have written us off. Maybe we have nothing to lose, which means we can be positive, relax and hopefully then not make mistakes.

"We want to score an early goal, that is very important. But we will need to be calm and not lose our concentration. Bolton scored three, so it can be done, but Chelsea had already scored four, so you can see how hard it is to beat them at Stamford Bridge.

"Chelsea are a very good team and it will be very difficult, but we have been scoring a lot of goals against Manchester United, Real Madrid, Aston Villa and now Blackburn, so our form is very good."

Benitez acknowledges that the role of Michael Essien in the first match, man-marking Gerrard, was key to the outcome.

He said: "They did not do things in the game that they had done before. Essien was a big difference, not just because he marked Steven well but because he is an excellent player.

"He is strong, and he is like a new signing for them. He had been out for a long time so when that happens a player usually returns with plenty of energy and desire.

"If we can give our fans something from the start, that could be very important because they will really get behind us."

And Benitez, who will also have Javier Mascherano back from suspension, believes that the hammering of Blackburn will serve as another confidence boost.

He said: "The team produced a superb display, scored plenty of goals and certainly showed that we can score three goals in a match.

"And Blackburn have a lot of very tall players, and we handled that well, and that gives us another positive message ahead of the second leg."

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