Liverpool vice-captain Jordan Henderson insists they will not be bullied by Chelsea in a potentially-explosive Capital One Cup semi-final second leg on Tuesday.
A 1-1 draw at Anfield leaves the tie finely-balanced but there will be a number of sub-plots when the teams take to the field at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Jose Mourinho’s side have a number of questions to answer after conceding a 2-0 lead to lose 4-2 to League One Bradford in the FA Cup.
But in addition there will be an edge to the game after Henderson and Chelsea striker Diego Costa had a disagreement on the pitch with more verbal jousting continuing in the tunnel after the whistle.
The England midfielder played down the incident but his actions indicate that Liverpool are prepared to stand toe-to-toe with any opponent.
In relation to the headlines which followed his confrontation with Costa, Henderson said: “I was a little bit surprised…but of course I don’t know what you are talking about it.”
Asked if there would be an edge to the game – in which he could be a target for home fans – Henderson added: “Probably. Liverpool, Chelsea – two big teams.
“I haven’t really thought about it, it doesn’t really bother me. The main thing is I go there and do the best for the team.
“You have to be strong mentally and physically and I think we have been that recently.
“We have shown we can be physical when we need to be but we just have to keep going.”
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Manager Brendan Rodgers has spoken glowingly of the 24-year-old’s growing leadership skills and the player himself feels there is extra onus on him to stand up for his team-mates having been made Steven Gerrard’s deputy earlier this season.
“I feel I have to take a bit more responsibility on and off the field to especially help the younger players coming through as I’ve been through the same sort of thing – but that goes for all the experienced players in the team,” he added.
“There have been some tough times but we have dug in, stuck together as a team and we have come out the other side in the last month or two and been much better so hopefully we can keep going from strength to strength.”
Liverpool’s scintillating second-half display at home to Chelsea raised expectations they could go to Stamford Bridge and win.
There is also the possibility of striker Daniel Sturridge returning to the squad having not played since the end of August.
“Hopefully when Daniel comes back it will give us a cutting edge. He is a big miss for us as he is a fantastic player,” Henderson said.
“Hopefully he comes back and gets the goals straightaway.
“We have a lot of confidence after the first leg and we were a little bit disappointed we didn’t win.
“The confidence has grown over the last month or two, we’ve picked up some really good results and the team spirit has been fantastic so it is a good opportunity for us on Tuesday.
“The game might be a little bit different, they will be coming straight at us from the off and they have some fantastic players but we are a good team so we need to defend like we have been doing and hurt them on the break.
“One of our aims this season is to get a trophy and if we beat Chelsea we are not far away as we will be in a final at Wembley.”
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