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Football: Benitez: I want to bury the hatchet (BUT NOT IN JOSE'S HEAD, HONEST..); COUNTDOWN TO CHELSEA v LIVERPOOL, STAMFORD BRIDGE, SUNDAY, 1.30PM.

Byline: By DAVID MADDOCK

LIVERPOOL boss Rafa Benitez has offered the hand of friendship to Jose Mourinho in an attempt to bury the bitter feud between them.

The Spanish coach wants to draw a line under the increasingly acrimonious dispute which seems to dominate every encounter between his side and Chelsea.

Privately, Benitez has been shocked by the attitude of Mourinho during matches between the teams. The Chelsea boss has refused to shake hands and has pointedly ignored his Anfield rival.

That has inflamed tensions between the clubs, and the flames have been fanned further by a series of disparaging comments about Liverpool's style of play.

Now the Anfield boss has decided to take steps to end the row, and ensure that Sunday's match at Stamford Bridge is played out in a less hostile atmosphere.

And Benitez explained yesterday that he is ready to shake hands in an attempt to bury the hatchet... and not in Mourinho's head.

"If Mourinho wanted to shake hands, I don't have any problems with that. I will shake his hand. I prefer to talk about football, not these small things," he said.

"I'll give to him the opportunity to shake hands if he wants. We'll go down there and be his guests on Sunday.

"At the end of the game I will wait and see if he offers his hand. If he does then I'll shake - it's not a problem." What is now one of the most bitter relationships in football began to go wrong when Mourinho lost his cool after Liverpool's Champions League semi-final triumph over Chelsea two years ago.

The Stamford Bridge boss complained about Benitez's long-ball tactics and their manner of victory, even though most observers agreed the Merseyside club thoroughly deserved their moment of glory. Mourinho pointedly ignored Benitez after his side again lost to Liverpool in last season's FA Cup semi-final, refusing to shake hands or even look at the Spanish coach.

That act was repeated during the Charity Shield at the start of this season, with Mourinho again blanking his rival and suggesting that Liverpool are a long ball side who won't challenge for the title.

That bitter backdrop was expected to make Sunday's latest clash between the two clubs a fiery encounter.

But Benitez has diffused the situation by pleading for common sense, and a return to a more dignified relationship between managers and clubs.

CAPTION(S):

TROUBLE AT THE TOP: Managers at war Mourinho and Benitez, who wants an end to the slagging match' FEUD FOR THOUGHT: Mirror Sport on the long-running dispute
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 14, 2006
Words:427
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