Chelsea v Liverpool

Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish: “Liverpool and Chelsea are close when they play each other, apart from the 4-1 at Anfield earlier this season, although they lost 2-0 down here [London].”

I couldn’t put it better myself. Since Jose Mourinho took over at Stamford Bridge in June 2004, Liverpool have lost all four home and away Premiership games they’ve played against Chelsea. Combined score: 8-1. Last season they finished fifth in the table, 37 points off top spot; this season they currently lie third, 15 points adrift. Closer, but not close.

In stark contrast to the League, European games during the same period have been tight, cagey and, on occasions, tedious affairs; of the four games played, three finished 0-0 and one finished 1-0, Luis Garcia’s infamous “goal” (has the use of quotation marks ever had quite the power to annoy?) the only difference between the sides.

Liverpool’s players have been spouting their customary hubris-laden pre-game inanities. Luis Garcia came out with this gem earlier in the week: “Liverpool are one of the teams who always cause problems for Chelsea … Mourinho must fear us because after each game his head must really hurt”. Will they ever learn?

Jose Mourinho’s head seemed fine during yesterday’s pre-match press conference, as he reflected on the last game between the teams, February’s 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge: “For me it was a game where only one team played. The other team couldn’t compete against a side that played a magnificent game. Chelsea played very well.

“We were psychologically prepared for the game and I don’t remember one chance they had. We beat them 2-0 very comfortably and we scored a third, an amazing goal from Crespo that the linesman didn’t give.”

Mourinho has a number of injury concerns going into the match. Eidur Gudjohnsen has been ruled out due to illness, while Michael Essien is rated doubtful after picking up a knee injury during last weekend’s win over Everton. Petr Cech also sustained a leg injury in that game, and was substituted at half time. Lenny Pidgeley has travelled with the squad as extra insurance.

Prediction: Both teams are in a rich vein of form and have scored plenty of goals in recent games: Liverpool have won their last seven, scoring 22 goals in the process, while we’ve looked impressive in our last three, sweeping aside West Ham 4-1, Bolton 2-0 and Everton 3-0.

That’s not to say we should expect a goalfest similar to 1997’s fourth round at Stamford Bridge, the last time the two teams met in the FA Cup. We were 2-0 down at half time but scored four times in the second half… it’s one of my all-time favourite Chelsea games. Rafael Benitez is likely to prevent it happening today by sticking to his ten men behind the ball tactics, thus stifling the game.

I’m predicting a hard fought 1-0 and a sixth straight domestic win over the Reds in just two seasons.

Chelsea 1 – 2 Liverpool · Update

In my humble opinion, Jose Mourinho got his tactics so wrong in the first half that we handed Liverpool the initiative if not the game, at least for the first 55 minutes, which were desperately disappointing.

One is wondering how Joe Cole is feeling now… as bad as the rest of us I would imagine.

Time for post-defeat sorrow drowning…

Match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; ESPNSoccernet; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Observer; Sunday Telegraph; Independent on Sunday; Daily Telegraph; The Times; The Guardian; The Independent.

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