CHELSEA

v

LIVERPOOL

Stamford Bridge, London

November 20, 2011; 16:00 GMT

***

Every once in a while, comes a fixture wherein the sub-plot threatens to derail the main objective of the game – at least, as far as the fans are concerned. When Chelsea welcome Liverpool on Sunday, all eyes would be on Fernando Torres, again. The Spaniard made his Chelsea debut against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge and was crushed under the burden of his price-tag and the nature of his transfer on deadline day. Between then and now, he has become a butt of all jokes; nevertheless, he has showed glimpses of his true class this season. However, he must be yearning to score against Liverpool – and, he will get, not one, but two opportunities in a matter of days to do so. Raul Meireles, who scored the only goal in Liverpool’sAi??triumph over Chelsea last season, can also expect a fair amount of attention in this game, as he was sold to The Blues, much to the chagrin of The Reds. However, the objective as far as the managers – Villas-Boas and Dalglish – are concerned, remains the same. A victory – nothing more, nothing less.

"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" - somewhat true in football as well!

Chelsea’s form in the league has been anything but consistent. Although the change in the style of play has seen the team play an attractive brand of football, they have come up short against quality opponents. Against United at Old Trafford, Villas-Boas’ men fought till the last minute and created a plethora of chances, but were unable to get the better of the defending champions. Meanwhile, they imploded at Stamford Bridge against Arsenal to concede 5 goals in horrific fashion. Andre knows the importance of the game against Liverpool.

Liverpool, on the other hand, have surely been reinvigorated after King Kenny took up the reins of the struggling Merseyside club. His arrival, coupled with the massive outlay on players, brought about an air of optimism. Such was theAi??positivenessAi??all around that only a string of poor results at Anfield has been able to wipe some of the sheen of their confidence. This season, they have played better football, created many chances but have failed to convert them into goals – a reason for dropping points against teams in the bottom half of the table. However, the fact that Dalglish hasn’t ever lost to Chelsea in the league is a strong enough reason for the Scousers to believe that their team can repeat their performance of last season and get back to winning ways.


Team News and Tactical Brief

Chelsea FC

After another meaningless international break, Chelsea are fortunate to welcome back all their players injury-free. Sturridge, however, did not train on Friday, following a knock which he picked up in training on Thursday, but is expected to be fit for the game. Drogba is available for selection, after serving his suspension and recovering from the minor operation on his arm. Michael Essien remains the only long-term casualty.

With full squad at his disposal, Andre Villas-Boas is expected to start with Bosignwa at right-back, even though Ivanovic took over the role in the game against Blackburn; but that was perhaps a specific strategy for that game. Cole will take his usual position at left-back, but the main point of contention is in the centre of defence. To counter the pace and trickery of Suarez and maybe Bellamy, Chelsea need to play David Luiz, who is fast and technically accomplished but also reckless. The combination of Terry and Ivanovic is not suited for a high defensive back-line, which has already shipped in bucketful of goals. All defenders have committed individual mistakes, costing Chelsea goals, so there’s no reason why Luiz shouldn’t feature this weekend. Not only is he a potent offensive threat from open play, but is also fast enough to track back if a ball is played behind the high-line.

The midfield is expected to comprise of Lampard, Meireles and Ramires; while Mata, Sturridge and Torres will, in allAi??likelihood, take the field against Liverpool. Against a midfield combination of Lucas and Adam, the Chelsea midfielders will try to dominate possession and make the man-advantage count. With Mata likely to float across the forward line, Ashley Cole will have the entire left flank left for him to exploit. Liverpool’s right-back (Johnson or Kelly) may be caught in two worlds occasionally – whether to track Mata’s movement or Cole’s runs; Chelsea will look to take advantage of any such dilemmas. The right flank is equally, if not more, important. Downing is Liverpool’s only natural source for delivering crosses. Bosingwa, if he plays, will have to cut that supply to opposition’s forwards. Similarly, the more Sturridge get’s involved in the game, the further Enrique will be pushed into his own half.

Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Cech; Bosignwa, Luiz, Terry; Meireles, Lampard, Ramires; Mata, Sturridge, Torres

Liverpool FC

Big players never like to miss big games.Ai??Luis Suarez suffered a knock on his back in the game against Chile, but considering the nature of this game, the striker is expected to make the starting line-up on Sunday. Carragher is set to make a comeback after a calf injury, and will look to rally the troops in the absence of influential leader Steven Gerrard. Carragher will look to replicate his performance from last season at Stamford Bridge, where he produced the goods despite returning after an injury layoff.

Last season, Dalglish caught Carlo Ancelotti off guard by fielding a relatively rare 3-5-2 formation. In this game, however, he has his own set of decisions to take. Should he bench Carroll and rather go for a fluid foursome of Suarez, Bellamy, Downing and Kuyt? Should he pick the pacy Johnson or theAi??positionallyAi??more aware Kelly? What should he do with Jordon Henderson?

In any case, his most lethal weapon remains Suarez, who will be all the more crucial considering the nature of Chelsea’s game play. Unbelievably high defensive line, central defenders who aren’t exactly known for their speed, and players who have shown a tendency to commit unpardonable individual mistakes – these are all the ingredients for a Luis Suarez masterclass! Against Arsenal, Chelsea were guilty of all three crimes and van Persie made them pay dearly. Dalglish will hope it to be the case again this weekend. However, the Uruguay forward has not been at his lethal best for Liverpool this season, having missed quite a few chances to score in the games preceding this one.

Lucas Leiva is another player who must be at his best, if Liverpool are to do well at Stamford Bridge. It will be only a matter of time before Juan Mata drifts to the centre and tries to find spaces between the lines. Further, Ramires and Lampard will arrive in the box at every available opportunity. Lucas needs to protect Liverpool from such treats.

Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-2): Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Adam, Downing, Kyut; Bellamy, Suarez

Key Facts

  1. Liverpool and Chelsea have met 28 times in various competitions since October 2004. Chelsea have won 12 of those games, and Liverpool nine.
  2. There have been just nine goals scored in the last eight league meetings between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
  3. Chelsea have picked up more cards than any other team this season: 28 yellow and three reds.
  4. Luis Suarez has had 51 shots in the Premier League this season but has scored only four goals – but he has won a league high of three penalties.
  5. Frank Lampard is the Premier League’s top-scoring midfielder with six goals.
Stats courtesy: BBC Sport.


TheHardTackle’s PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Fernando Torres (Chelsea)

A good amount of jerseys had been burnt and enough abuses had been hurled, butAi??El Nino failed to answer. For half an year at Chelsea, he basically failed to do anything of note. Then, suddenly, the real Fernando started to emerge from the ashes. He scored against United, was possibly the best player for Chelsea on the pitch, but the point of discussion was that miss. In the same way, he continues to make the headlines for more wrong than right reasons. Anyway, he has scored a few goals in the process. Now, here comes Liverpool, again. Will he be ready with an answer this time?


TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool

Both, Andre and Kenny, are desperate for a win. While Liverpool will attack, Chelsea may just try to throw a bit of caution into the wind. A draw seems the most likely result, but in a season which has seen Manchester United scoring 8 and conceding 6 at home, Chelsea conceding 5 at Stamford Bridge, and Liverpool being humbled at White Hart Lane, any scoreline you can think of is possible!


TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST

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One Response to “Chelsea v Liverpool – Preview: Villas-Boas And Dalglish Yearn For A Win; Torres For An Answer”

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  1. Sid V says:

    Chelsea need to shore up their defence. I cannot see Davd Luiz in the starting eleven as a central defender specifically against Suarez. DL seems to be a red card waiting to happen in the penalty area. He might be much better than Mikel in a defensive midfielder role, given his attacking prowess.Chelsea can tweak their formation to a 4-2-3-1 and play slightly more defensively and deeper.