Liverpool v Chelsea

Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge. — Paul Gauguin.

So we find ourselves with the opportunity to avenge The Goal That Wasn’t (the over-rated Luis Garcia’s “greatest moment of my career” apparently) sooner than we could all have hoped.

Despite Jose Mourinho talking down the revenge aspect, the majority of us are sure to be feeling that this game (and the Premiership clash on Sunday) is the perfect opportunity to put the mediocre ‘Champions of Europe’ well and truly in their place. The Liverpool press has gone to great lengths to prepare the locals for defeat by making much of the fact that the Champions League semi-final and group stages just don’t compare — and they have a point, but winning tonight and Sunday will go some way to assuaging the pain of last year’s controversial semi-final defeat.

One Chelsea player who has talked openly of revenge is Hernan Crespo, scorer of two goals for AC Milan in last year’s final. “It still makes me crazy,” he told the press this week. Understandable. Destiny may well be on his side this year.

Most members of the Liverpool staff and squad have at some point this week spouted a pre-match inanity or two. Rafael Benitez, Peter Crouch, Luis Garcia, Fernando Morientes — “We’ve got them sussed. If I was a betting man I’d tip us and Real Betis to go through — and not Chelsea”? — to name a few. Sticks and stones and all that. We all remember what happened to Barcelona: their connections spent the days leading up to last year’s first knock-out stage second leg predicting all sorts of preposterous outcomes only to receive a lesson in perfect counter-attacking football, returning home humble pie in hand.

Much is sure to be made of the midfield battle between two of England’s finest — Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Lampard’s slow start to the season is all but a distant memory and we can expect another solid performance. Gerrard on the other hand hasn’t really looked anywhere near his best so far this season. It might be a form thing but is more likely to be the negative tactics employed by Benitez: the £100,000-a-week man just doesn’t seem to be given a free rein these days, a role which normally brings out his best. Expect him to score the opening goal now.

In team news, Asier Del Horno will be missing as he recovers from a thigh injury, instead playing 45 minutes for the Reserves against Norwich tonight, while Arjen Robben isn’t a definite starter after picking up a knock against Aston Villa. William Gallas will again step into the left-back position leaving the central defensive duties to Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry. Joe Cole or Shaun Wright-Phillips will likely replace Robben if the Dutchman fails to recover in time.

Hernan Crespo will be hoping to get the nod over Didier Drogba, thus putting him in the perfect position to avenge Milan’s capitulation.

Prediction: Don’t expect fireworks. Benitez is again likely to ask the Liverpool players to “act like sailors in murky fog, looking constantly to the lighthouse that is Peter Crouch” (Guardian Unlimited, Monday) whilst we spend ninety minutes probing methodically at a Chelsea-stifling, set in stone 4-5-1 formation. It’s got 1-0 (either way; expect painful amounts of gloating if the Reds do scrape a win) or 1-1 written all over it.

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Liverpool 0 – 0 Chelsea · Update

Match Reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; Sporting Life; Official Chelsea FC Website; ESPN Soccernet; The Guardian; The Times; The Independent; Daily Telegraph.

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