RAFA BENITEZ admits he is in for an emotional afternoon back at Anfield on Sunday – but says he will do his best to put it out of his mind during the match.
The ex-Liverpool boss is sure of a good reception on Merseyside, having guided the club to Champions League and FA Cup success and will be in the strange position of enjoying a far better reception from opposition fans than his own.
Yet the interim Blues boss insists a Chelsea victory will still be uppermost in his mind.
“I am a professional so I will try to do my job, but I was there for six years and have a lot of friends and a lot of good memories, so it will be quite emotional,” said Benitez, who still has his family home on Merseyside.
“I will try to concentrate on the game and try to do my best in 90 minutes. I am committed with Chelsea until the end of the season to achieve our targets and will try to win.
“For the Liverpool fans, I have been there for six years winning a lot of things together, so I think they will appreciate that, but at the same time, they will try to support their team and they will understand that I have to try to do my best and win.
“I have a lot of respect for Liverpool Football Club and all the managers, so I don't want any misunderstanding and I prefer not to talk about the manager or the position of the manager.
“It's true, there is always a spark in games between the teams. In the past it was because they were always at the top of the table or fighting for trophies and this rivalry is good.”
Chelsea have Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole and Marko Marin all training again to boost Benitez' options, though the game may have come too soon for Cahill and Cole. They will be assessed again after tomorrow's training to see whether they can feature.
Chelsea's midweek win at Fulham keeps them in a strong position to finish in the Champions League places and Benitez is mindful of that goal.
“It was very important against Fulham, because we needed to be sure we would be back in the top three and now every game until the end of the season will be important,” he said. “If we carry on winning our games, we will be in the driving seat.
“I always think about one game at a time. I don't see [look ahead at] all the games, just the next one and for us it's Liverpool now and if we can get three points, we are still in the top three and hopefully it will be the same until the end. But I don't see the fixtures of the other teams.
“We have quality and experience in the squad and if we can beat Liverpool, we will be in an even better position and we'll have good momentum.”