LONDON, April 13 – Guus Hiddink believes Chelsea's unbreakable team spirit will stop Liverpool staging a famous revival in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg.
Although Hiddink’s side have one foot in the semi-finals after last week’s stunning 3-1 victory at Anfield, Liverpool have developed a habit of upsetting the form book in Europe under Rafael Benitez.
Liverpool’s fightback from 3-0 down to win the 2005 Champions League final against AC Milan proved how dangerous they can be, but it would take a spectacular meltdown to deny Chelsea a probable last four showdown against Barcelona, 4-0 winners over Bayern Munich in their first leg.
While a less resolute team could crack under the pressure of an early Liverpool goal on Tuesday, Blues boss Hiddink is convinced the squad’s togetherness will play a key role in finishing the job at Stamford Bridge.
"There is a fantastic spirit around this club, everyone believes in what we can achieve this season and it is exciting to be a part of that," he said.
"But we must not lose our focus for one game or one minute and that means each game is as important as the next one. We have the same aim, which is to try and win all of them.
"It is important that we take the momentum gained from winning at Anfield into this game and keep our level of performance up."
When Hiddink arrived at Chelsea in February the club’s season was in danger of fizzling out, but he quickly won the respect of players who were unconvinced by Scolari’s laidback regime.
Now Chelsea look back to their intimidating best and they could still finish the season with a treble. Saturday’s 4-3 win over Bolton kept them within four points of Manchester United in the Premier League, while Tuesday’s Liverpool showdown is followed by an FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal at Wembley.
Ashley Cole, Chelsea’s England left-back, admits the rejuvenating effect provided by Hiddink’s no-nonsense style has come at the perfect time.
"It is always nice to go to Anfield and get a good result and it is going to be tough for them to come to the Bridge and score three goals," Cole said.
"Of course it could happen but we have got the players in our team to score goals. We have scored in every game apart from one since the new manager came in so we are very confident we can push on now and go through."
Hiddink’s only concern going into Tuesday’s tie is the careless way his side allowed Bolton to come back from 4-0 down to set up a tense finale, with Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech looking especially vulnerable.
After the ruthless way Hiddink targeted and exploited Liverpool’s zonal marking system in the first leg, Benitez will be desperate to find a tactical retort. He could do worse than tell his players to test Cech early on.
If Liverpool do claim a famous victory, it is safe to say Fernando Torres will have played a key role.
Torres scored a stunning half-volley as he took his tally for the season to 14 with two goals in Saturday’s 4-0 rout of Blackburn and the Spain striker believes the result proved Liverpool have the goal-power to mount a remarkable fightback.
"The way we played is good for our build-up and preparation for Tuesday," Torres said.
"This win gives us confidence after the 3-1 defeat. But I believe the team can score three goals at Stamford Bridge. We won away to Manchester United, they scored but we still won 4-1.
"Chelsea could just defend, but I doubt that. They will want to score themselves and that will give us a chance ourselves."
Benitez was able to leave captain Steven Gerrard on the bench against Blackburn as he struggles with a groin injury, but the England midfielder will surely be risked on Tuesday.
Chelsea will have to do without their skipper as John Terry serves a one-match ban after his booking for a foul on Liverpool keeper Jose Reina in the first leg.