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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Mourinho v Benitez
Liverpool versus Chelsea under Rafael Benitez and Jose Mourinho
By Paul Fletcher

The increasingly bitter but nonetheless compelling rivalry between Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez will be resumed at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

The first leg of the Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Liverpool will be the 14th time the two sides have met since the two men arrived in England within 12 days of each other in June 2004.

Since then a cordial relationship has deteriorated into a slanging match that hints at a bitter and mutual dislike.

Spaniard Benitez recently offered the following explanation when he said: "We were good friends until Liverpool started winning, then he started changing his mind."

Benitez might just have a point.

Mourinho's Chelsea won their first three meetings with Liverpool's Benitez - twice in the Premiership, before coming from behind to triumph 3-2 in the 2005 Carling Cup final.

The talk around these games centred on tactics and adjustment to life in England. The managers preferred to talk about their own team rather than the opposition.

Jose Mourinho (left) and Rafael Benitez
Relations have soured over the last three years

The controversial Champions League semi-final at the end of the 2005 season changed all that.

Luis Garcia's solitary and controversial goal at Anfield after a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge settled the tie - but Mourinho was not happy.

He claimed "the linesman scored the goal" after Roman Slysko ruled Garcia's effort had crossed the line.

Mourinho's first season in English football ended with Chelsea being the worthy and deserving Premiership champions as well as Carling Cup winners.

But his run of European success - Mourinho won the 2003 Uefa Cup and the Champions League the following season with Porto - was brought to an end by Benitez, whose team went on to lift the European Cup in 2005.

The group stage of the 2006 Champions League pitted Chelsea and Liverpool against each other once again.

RAFAEL BENITEZ
Born: Madrid, Spain
Age: 47
Clubs managed: Castilla B, Real Madrid Youth, Real Madrid Under-19s, Real Madrid B, Real Valladolid, Osasuna, Extremadura, Tenerife, Valencia, Liverpool
Major honours: Spanish League 2002, 2004, Uefa Cup 2004 (with Valencia), 2005 Champions League, 2006 FA Cup (with Liverpool)

But the events of the previous season were still nagging at Mourinho, who said in September: "They didn't score in the semi-final against us but I accept they beat us."

Mourinho, the self-appointed Special One, had already shown by this stage that he was not afraid to stir the pot, with many observers arguing it served the purpose of taking the heat off his players.

Whatever, enough was enough for Benitez, who might lack the natural charisma of Mourinho but who has nonetheless shown he understands how to use the media.

After their first group match ended in another goalless draw in September 2005, the Liverpool manager said the following month: "To me, Arsenal played much better football two or three years ago. They won matches and were exciting to watch.

"Barcelona and Milan too. They create excitement so how can you say Chelsea are the best in the world?"

Two more Premiership wins for Chelsea - including a 4-1 thumping at Anfield - and yet another goalless draw in the Champions League suggested that even if the Blues were not the world's best they certainly had the measure of Liverpool.

They clearly had a superior squad and, under the remarkable stewardship of Mourinho, again proved themselves comfortable Premiership champions last season.

However, their FA Cup semi-final meeting in April 2006 showed once more Benitez's ability to outwit his adversary on a one-off occasion.

Liverpool won 2-1 and Mourinho was fuming.

"Did the best team win? I don't think so," said the Chelsea boss.

Mourinho tried to blame referee Graham Poll but, in a telling moment of how much the defeat had hurt, he continued: "In the Premiership Liverpool have no chance.

"In a one-off game maybe they will surprise me and they can do it. In the Premiership the distance between the teams is 45 points over two seasons."

Mourinho's team had gone into the match 15 points clear of Liverpool in the Premiership.

Luis Garcia (right) scores against Chelsea in the Champions League
Garcia's goal in the Champions League caused controversy in 2005

But Mourinho selected a team without any of his wide players.

Damien Duff, Arjen Robben and Joe Cole started from the bench while Shaun Wright-Phillips was left out of the squad entirely.

Benitez did not have the luxury to be so bold with his selection but his team's victory caused one journalist to ask: "Whose will and ability to get the best out of his players will prove more enduring?"

Relations between the two men had broken down.

Mourinho refused to shake Benitez's hand after the match - and again after Liverpool won the 2006 Community Shield.

This season Chelsea and Liverpool shared the spoils in their Premiership encounters - with Liverpool's 2-0 win in January giving Benitez his first points against Mourinho in six attempts.

And the duel will resume again on Wednesday when the teams meet for a remarkable fifth time in the Champions League in only three seasons.

Mourinho wasted no time in proclaiming Liverpool as favourites, arguing that the Champions League is their only remaining chance of silverware, while his team are chasing trophies on several fronts.

The 43-year-old's latest salvo drew Benitez's response that Mourinho falls out with the managers of teams who beat his own.

JOSE MOURINHO
Born: Setubal, Portugal
Age: 44
Clubs managed: Benfica, Leiria, Porto, Chelsea
Major honours: Portuguese League 2003, 2004, Uefa Cup 2003, Champions League 2004 (with Porto), English Premiership 2005, 2006, Carling Cup 2005 (with Chelsea)

Benitez also threw a little dig Mourinho's way when he said: "We know Chelsea are a very good team, in the last five years they have spent big money on players."

Mourinho desperately wants to win the Champions League with Chelsea, while it is the only chance for Benitez to continue his record of picking up silverware in each of his seasons at Anfield.

The semi-final promises to be a keenly-contested affair, both on and off the pitch.

Who knows, it could even be the last with Mourinho and Benitez managing Premiership clubs.

Benitez may have spurned the repeated advances of Real Madrid but Mourinho's future at Chelsea is still filling the newspaper columns, despite the insistence of the Chelsea hierarchy that their Portuguese manager will not be sacked.

I wonder how Mourinho would feel about being second choice to Benitez in Madrid?



SEE ALSO
Chelsea v Liverpool
23 Apr 07 |  Europe
Benitez unfazed by Dudek report
24 Apr 07 |  Liverpool
Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
22 Apr 06 |  FA Cup
Reds & Chelsea set for showdown
28 Sep 05 |  Europe
Benitez picks faults with Chelsea
01 Oct 05 |  Liverpool
Liverpool 2-3 Chelsea
27 Feb 05 |  League Cup
Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea
03 May 05 |  Europe


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