Mourinho rates Liverpool favourites for final
LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool are favourites to win their Champions League semi-final because they are fresher than Chelsea and do not have the same injury and suspension problems, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Tuesday.
"If you push me to give a favourite then I think Liverpool should be favourite," Mourinho told a news conference ahead of Wednesday's first leg at Stamford Bridge.
His Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benitez rejected the favourite tag, saying the only advantage his side enjoyed was playing the second leg at Anfield.
Mourinho lamented Chelsea's lack of rest in pursuit of three more trophies and injuries to midfielder Michael Ballack, winger Arjen Robben and defender Ricardo Carvalho.
Carvalho trained with his team mates on Tuesday and looked to be moving easily but Mourinho said he doubted his Portuguese compatriot, suffering from a hamstring problem, would be fit.
Chelsea will also be missing the midfield power of Michael Essien who is suspended and his team mates will be mindful of the need for restraint with five others, including top scorer Didier Drogba, one yellow card away from suspension.
"We have a lot of players with two yellow cards. It would not surprise me if they chased Drogba for 90 minutes to see if he can get a yellow card," Mourinho said.
But fatigue at the sharp end of a long season in which they were seeking an historic quadruple of trophies would play a crucial role, the Chelsea boss said.
"There are no miracles. In football it's not just legs, it's the mind. You have to have a high level of concentration," Mourinho said.
Chelsea and Manchester United -- going for a treble -- had shown that sort of exhaustion with colourless Premier League draws at the weekend. United were at home to AC Milan on Tuesday night in the first leg of their semi-final.
Liverpool, out of the FA Cup and out of the running for Premier League honours, had enjoyed breaks between games and time to recuperate, Mourinho said.
"Liverpool rest players. Steven Gerrard did not play the last game. Do you think Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are in the same condition to play against each other? I do not think it will be a fair fight," he added.
Benitez put Mourinho's complaints down to posturing and playing games. He countered Mourinho's dig about Drogba's yellow cards by remarking that he knew about such things because midfielder Xabi Alonso had suffered the same fate at Chelsea's hands two years ago and had missed the second leg.
"I don't like to play this game," he said. "They are in the finals because they have a good team and good players.
"The only thing that's better (for Liverpool) is to play the second leg in Anfield. If we can do the right things maybe we have an advantage because the atmosphere will be very good."
When the two sides met at the same stage of the competition two years ago, Liverpool earned a 0-0 draw at Chelsea and won by a single, fourth-minute goal at Anfield where the crowd kept up a deafening roar of encouragement for the home side.
"We have confidence," Benitez said "We have won some games in top competitions."
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