LIVERPOOL, April 7 – Fernando Torres believes his lethal partnership with Steven Gerrard will help Liverpool hand Chelsea another dose of Champions League misery in Wednesday's quarter-final first leg.
After watching Robbie Keane struggle to gel with Torres earlier this season, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez decided to move England midfielder Gerrard into a move advanced position just behind Spain striker Torres.
The switch has transformed Liverpool as an attacking force. For much of Benitez’s reign they have focused on a safety-first philosophy that delivered results but few thrills.
But with Gerrard in tandem with Torres, Liverpool’s two best players have formed a formidable double act which has provided the firepower to keep the Reds hot on Manchester United’s heels in the Premier League title race and set up yet another European showdown with Chelsea.
The two English powerhouses will be meeting in the Champions League for the fifth successive season and, for once, it is Benitez’s men who have painful memories to avenge.
After eliminating Chelsea twice at the semi-final stage in 2005 and 2007, it was Liverpool’s turn to suffer the heartache of a last-four exit when the Blues won 4-3 on aggregate last season.
That narrow victory kept up the pattern of tight ties between the increasingly bitter rivals and Torres knows it will be hard to separate them again, making the potency of his partnership with Gerrard even more important.
"Stevie has been getting a lot of praise from some of the best players in the world," Torres said.
"That is quite right because I think he is the best in the world. He is a great team player but he can also win a game on his own when maybe we are not playing so well.
"I cannot think of a player I would rather be playing with. We know it is not going to be easy against Chelsea but both Stevie and I are happy with our form."
While Manchester United’s dramatic victory over Aston Villa on Sunday took some of the wind out of Liverpool’s sails following their own late win against Fulham on Saturday, Benitez’s side still have a realistic chance of winning the title.
For Chelsea, who sit four points behind United with a game more played, Europe represents their best chance of a memorable campaign.
Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, who scored in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Newcastle, is convinced his team are in the right frame of mind to cope with the sound and fury of a European night at Anfield.
"We know how tough Liverpool is going to be. It is going to be a very tight game, both legs, and we are ready. We are in the right mood for it," Lampard said.
Chelsea’s hopes of taking a positive result back to Stamford Bridge for next Tuesday’s return would be improved if Didier Drogba can recover from the ankle injury that kept him out of the Newcastle match.
Drogba, who terrorised Liverpool in last season’s semi-final second leg, has been in fine form of late after an inconsistent season and Blues boss Guus Hiddink was relieved to see the Ivory Coast striker play a full part in training on Monday.
If Drogba features on Merseyside it will be his first game since he played in the Ivory Coast’s traumatic World Cup qualifier against Malawi, when the collapse of a stadium wall caused the deaths of 19 fans in Abidjan.
Like all of his Ivory Coast team-mates, Drogba has found it hard to come to terms with the tragedy, but Hiddink believes he will be able to put it out of his mind for a while and concentrate on Chelsea’s challenge.
"We’ve talked about the tragedy in Abidjan with the whole squad," Hiddink said. "Winning and losing are very important but this showed there are other things in life to put them into some kind of perspective."