Premiership preview: Liverpool v. Chelsea

Former prime minister Harold Wilson once said, “A week is a long time in politics.”

Indeed, as we have seen with Chelsea’s current political wranglings, much can change in seven days.

Prior to last weekend’s trouncing of Wigan at Stamford Bridge, Jose Mourinho declared his love for Chelsea after numerous newspaper reports told of internal disputes; post game he hinted at differences of opinion with both the board and Roman Abramovich.

The press had a field day. All manner of reports about “civil war” at the club were forthcoming; Mourinho had added fuel to the fire and journalists were determined to fan the flames.

Yesterday chief executive Peter Kenyon did his best to extinguish the inferno.

At the launch of the club’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report in the House of Commons, Kenyon told the BBC that Mourinho has the full support of both the board and Abramovich.

“The board and the owner fully support Jose and Jose is fully on board in looking to achieve more success on the field,” he said.

“There’s not a lot I can do about speculation. We are very confident that both the manager and the board are together on how we make Chelsea even more successful.

“He’s got a contract to 2010 and wants to finish what we started when we brought him in. That was a long-term plan for Chelsea being successful on the field.”

Cynics will tell you that Kenyon is just doing his job, keeping the ship afloat until the summer when certain members of the crew will jump or be pushed overboard.

But most fans will just be pleased to hear that the club is pulling in the same direction ahead of this vital game against despised rivals Liverpool.

Away from the boardroom, Mourinho will not have let his differences with Abramovich affect the players and their preparations.

Andriy Shevchenko, the player the newspapers erroneously placed at the centre of the apparent crisis, returned to full training this week after ten days on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.

In the Times yesterday the Ukranian was forthright in his denial of any special relationship with Abramovich.

But rumours suggest Mourinho will still overlook him and field Arjen Robben and either Shaun Wright-Phillips or Salomon Kalou up front with Didier Drogba, Liverpool’s nemesis, in a 4-3-3 formation.

Michael Essien is expected to replace the suspended Claude Makelele in the holding midfield role, which would leave a substantial hole in the centre of defence. Whether John Terry is fit enough to fill said hole is as yet unknown.

Petr Cech was given the all-clear earlier this week and could take his place in goal wearing special protective headgear, but is more likely to start on the bench.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is without Luis Garcia, Harry Kewell, Momo Sissoko and Mark Gonzalez. He is expected to make several changes to his line-up and revert to a more defensive formation from the 3-4-3 he successfully experimented with at Watford last weekend.

The Reds’ last two games at Anfield ended in humiliation when they lost 1-3 and 3-6 to Arsenal in the FA and League cup respectively.

Both Mourinho and Benitez celebrate their 100th Premiership game in charge. Mourinho has won all five games against Benitez since his arrival at the Bridge in 2004.

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