When Liverpool supporters looked at the fixture list at the start of the season, they must have prayed for this match to be a potential title decider. How they wish they had been more specific in their prayers, eh? After the Europa League exit, this season just gets worse and worse for the Merseysiders knowing that a win over Chelsea would only gift Man United their 19th title – one more than Liverpool’s eighteen.
Though football is a funny game and anything can happen on the last day of the season, Chelsea are virtually guaranteed the title if they win at Anfield. Dropping points, however, could be a fatal blow to their title aspirations. Chelsea have dropped an amazing 11 points from their last 21 to let United in with a sniff – a sniff that could lead to a huge treasure for the Red Devils.
There is no end to the horrors of a Liverpool supporter. The penultimate game against Chelsea being nothing less than a storm – tearing the conscience of every scouser, every red and every Anfield faithful. It’s ironic that England’s most decorated club hold the key to a title which they have been far from winning this season.
If Liverpool beat Chelsea at Anfield on sunday, Manchester United would have a chance to go two points clear to Chelsea by beating Sunderland. The win would more or less seal the title for United and make them the most successful club in the history of English football. Having said that, Big clubs certainly don’t defy history for a single game. In a similar situation, not long ago Liverpool had beaten Blackburn in the 1995 season on the last day,creating an opportunity for United to win the league. However Manchester United dropped points and finished second. While the Liverpool fans suffer from dissonance over the outcome of the match it would be interesting to see the Red Devil faithful’s cheering for the scoucers.
With Fernando Torres out for the season, David Ngog’s back injury causes more concerns in the striking department. The french youngster is a doubt for the game. Defensive problems still persist for Liverpool as left-backs Insua and Aurelio are still to recover, while Kelly and Skrtel are out with injuries.
THT’s Predicted Line-up:
Johnson Carragher Kyrgiakos Agger
Benayoun Gerrard Maxi
From Liverpool’s corner:
While the fans must be torn between hoping for a winning end to a disastrous season or hoping to keep their history intact, Rafael Benitez and Steven Gerrard have made it clear that the merseysiders are ready to gift the title to United. But an afternoon kickoff on Sunday following a game and a half on Thursday, Liverpool may not be able to help Manchester United’s cause whether they want to or not. Rafael Benitez would find it difficult to pick fresh legs in the squad to challenge the spirit of Chelsea.
Tactically speaking, Carragher could be deployed at right-back to handle Malouda, while the huge frame of Kyrgiakos could be present at centre-back to assist Agger in coping with ‘The Drog’. However, Benitez’s plans cannot be predicted with certainty. The brittle Aquaman may not get a look-in till the seventieth minute.
It is Liverpool’s last home game of the season and they still have a chance of qualifying for the champions league. But the question on everyone’s mind is – Will Anfield be really up for this one?
With the prospect of becoming the first ever Chelsea team to win a domestic double in the club’s 105-year history, the motivation could not have been any better for the West London side. In the league, the players and the manager have the destiny in their own hands – Win the next two matches, and it will not matter what a certain team from Manchester does. If they do that, the title will return to Stamford Bridge.
Since his arrival, Carlo Ancelotti has been calm but focussed. If Ancelotti’s Chelsea manages to defeat Liverpool at Anfield before lifting the Premiership and FA Cup trophies, he would have done well to help the club emerge from the shadow of the Mourinho days.
John Obi Mikel makes the trip to Liverpool, but whether he plays or not will depend on a late medical. Ricardo Carvalho is touch and go for this game, but may not be risked. Jose Bosingwa and Michael Essien are out injured.
THT’s Predicted Line-up:
John Terry, after serving his one-match suspension, is expected to start alongside Alex in the centre of defence. Branislav Ivanovic is expected to move back to the role that earned him a place in the Team of the Year and Ashley Cole will start ahead of Yuri Zhirkov at left-back.
Carlo Ancelotti is expected to retain Michael Ballack in the mid-field if Mikel fails to recover from the injury, which had kept him out of the game against Stoke City. Solomon Kalou, despite scoring a hat-trick in the previous game, is likely to be replaced by Joe Cole in the starting eleven.
Ivanovic Alex Terry A.Cole
J.Cole Lampard Malouda
From Chelsea’s corner:
The Blues have to be clinical in their approach – forget the mind-games being played by the press and the opposition camp, step on to the field with the goal in sight and get the desired result. This is the business end of the season; any further slip-ups by the team or a loss in concentration by a player can prove to be devastating.
Chelsea should not read too much into Liverpool’s Europa League exit, and all the talk surrounding Anfield’s apparent dilemma. The West Londoners have to remain focused about the job at hand.
Rightfully, the Chelsea manager is only preparing for Liverpool at their best – ‘Maybe they will be a little bit tired, but I know very well that at Anfield I have never seen Liverpool tired. They play a strong 90 minutes every game and I think they will do the same Sunday.’ he said.
In the absence of Essien and Mikel, the onus will be on Ballack to keep Liverpool’s talismanic skipper quiet. This battle can decide the outcome of the war.
Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea
The reds are 3-2-0 in their last five league matches and undefeated in their last ten matches at Anfield, winning nine of them. They haven’t lost to Chelsea at Anfield since the club’s 4-1 thrashing. But this game is a whole different ball game. Taking into account that Chelsea will be up for it and Anfield probably won’t, we believe Chelsea will edge this game much to the relief of Ancelotti, and possibly The Kop as well?