March 18, 2005

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez predicts his side will overcome Juventus to reach the Champions League semi-finals, as the two clubs vowed to use the opportunity of their meeting to mark the 20th anniversary of the Heysel disaster.

The quarter-final draw today in Nyon produced an emotive occasion when Liverpool and Juventus were the first two clubs out of the hat.

It is 20 years since 39 supporters, the majority of them Italian, died when a wall in the decrepit Heysel stadium gave way ahead of the European Cup final between the teams.

English clubs were banned from Europe and Liverpool's name was tarnished - but Benitez now has a chance to guide Liverpool to an improbable semi-final against either Chelsea or Bayern Munich.

But for the club and the city of Liverpool the clash with the Italians brings bitter memories flooding back.

Chief executive Rick Parry, in Switzerland for the draw, said: 'There is a deep friendship between the two clubs, and between the two sets of supporters.

'It is 20 years since Heysel and we as clubs had already mentioned some sort of commemoration, it is something we will give some thought to.

'It shows how far football has come in 20 years and I am confident we will get that side of things right.

'Something will be done. We will talk to our supporters and I know Juventus are doing the same, and the clubs will talk again next week.'

His words were echoed by Juventus director Romy Gal, who said: 'This will be the first time we have met on the field since 1985, so we will plan something more than just a normal game.

'I have been talking to Rick Parry already and we have said that there is the opportunity to mark what happened 20 years ago.

'Now Liverpool and Juventus are great friends, we co-operate together in plenty of things at international level.

'We were already planning something, we feel we are obliged to do something more to remember that day in 1985.

'Rick Parry has told me he has been asked by Liverpool fans to mark the occasion of the 20th anniversary anyway, and it will be a great day for both clubs.

'It will be emotional, it is something that is part of the history of both clubs and we all cannot forget.

'We will remember and to be drawn to play each other again is a fantastic opportunity for us both to do something special.'

Liverpool will be at home in the first leg and Benitez told the club's official website: 'I am confident we can do well, even though Italian teams are always tough to play against and you always know you will be in for a difficult game.

'They haven't conceded many goals in the competition this season so that means they have a good defence, but they also have good forwards. They are very strong.'

He added: 'We're at home in the first leg and our idea will be to be careful and not to concede any goals if possible. Then we will see what we can do.

'This is the Champions League and over two legs anything is possible. It is a tough draw but I'm confident we can do well in the tie.'

Former Liverpool assistant manager and defender Phil Thompson appreciated the significance of the draw, but insists the Anfield club can triumph.

He said: 'There has been a lot of bridge-building between Liverpool and Juventus since Heysel, the clubs are close and have worked exceptionally hard to help each other to overcome what happened.

'This draw those brings back a lot of memories, some good some bad - but it will be a great night at Anfield.

'I do think it is possible for Liverpool to go through. Last season, from the quarter-finals onwards, nobody even looked at Porto because they were complete outsiders.

'It can happen, Liverpool can do the same, who would have picked Greece to win the European Championship? Stranger things have happened and Liverpool have an outside chance, why not?'

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