Liverpool v Chelsea Preview: FA Cup Winner Torres Returns To Anfield

LIVERPOOL

v

CHELSEA

Anfield, Liverpool

May 8, 2012 – 2000 GMT

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It could be labeled as a chance for Liverpool to avenge their FA Cup final defeat at the hands of the same opponent, but a home win wouldn’t nearly make up for the Wembley loss, especially since the significance of the league has fizzled out for both sides.

Instead, the focus will be on Fernando Torres, whose first ever return to Anfield after his infamous move comes a few days after he won his first major trophy in club football. Add to that a Champions League final to look forward to and Torres will feel his move to Chelsea has been vindicated already. However, Torres’s gesture of going up and consoling his former teammates after the Wembley final may just soften the anticipated hostile reception.

Liverpool’s dreadful league campaign has meant that they sit in 8th place, three points behind merseyside rivals Everton and ahead of Fulham only on goal difference. With only two games to go, Liverpool still aren’t guaranteed a top half finish after a home defeat to Fulham in the last league match. For Kenny Dalglish, the FA Cup defeat might be the final straw that leads to his exit in the summer. What could’ve potentially been a domestic double is now only a Carling Cup trophy and the season has been a disastrous one.

As for Chelsea, Roberto Di Matteo’s side continue their incredible turnaround from the scraps that Villas-Boas’s exit had left. After conquering Barcelona and winning the FA Cup, they now set their sights on the biggest prize of all in Munich on May 19; Anfield being an inconsequential stopover. The Blues are four points off fourth spot in the league table and a defeat against Liverpool would end their quest for a top four finish.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Liverpool

Kenny Dalglish’s team selection was put under the scanner on Saturday. He chose to leave out Andy Carroll, which meant Henderson and Spearing started in the centre of a very weak midfield while Gerrard tried to link up with Suarez in an advanced role. It backfired miserably as Liverpool struggled for over an hour in the game till Carroll came on to not only change the whole complexion of the game, but emphatically prove that Dalglish’s original set up was way off the mark.

With a wonderful cameo, Liverpool’s record signing has guaranteed himself a start on Tuesday night alongside Luis Suarez. Jonjo Shelvey is likely to team up with Steven Gerrard in the centre of midfield, relegating both Spearing and Henderson to the bench. Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing will man the right and left wing, respectively. The defence is likely to remain unchanged from Wembley. However, Fabio Aurelio could be handed a start over an under-performing Jose Enrique. Maxi Rodriguez could also be chosen over Downing.

Lucas Leiva (cruciate ligaments) and Charlie Adam (knee) have been injured since November and March, respectively. Neither of the two will be seen again this season and are the only absentees for Liverpool.

Tactically speaking, Carroll will be Liverpool’s aerial weapon – this time right from the start – to trouble the Chelsea central defensive pair, which also leaves more space for Suarez to work around with. Gerrard will play a deeper role but Dalglish will be counting on his trademark late runs into the box (likes of which saw him scoring a hat-trick against Everton earlier this season).

Downing (or Maxi) will have to support Enrique in his quest to stop Ramires; a job he struggled to do at Wembley. He’ll also have to deal with the threat of a confident and fired up Fernando Torres running the channels.

Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-2): Reina (GK); Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Kuyt, Gerrard(c), Shelvey, Downing; Suarez, Carroll

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Chelsea

Roberto Di Matteo, it seems, can do no wrong. He has been so clear about his game plans, strategies and priorities, it seems to have rubbed off on his players as well. Chelsea centre-backs David Luiz and Gary Cahill (both hamstring) are still major doubts. Didier Drogba will be rested and will only be used next to batter the Bayern Munich centre-backs, meaning Fernando Torres will be handed a start on his return to Anfield. Frank Lampard will also be rested for this match.

Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and another former red Raul Meireles are likely to feature in Chelsea’s last two league games, since neither of the three can feature in the Champions League final. Michael Essien and Florent Malouda will also be fielded after starting the FA Cup final from the bench, while Daniel Sturridge is likely to feature from the bench.

Di Matteo is likely to deploy Juan Mata behind Fernando Torres, with Ramires and Malouda providing support from the right and left, respectively. Michael Essien and Raul Meireles will man the front of Chelsea’s defence with timely forays into the Liverpool penalty area. Ramires’s pace caused major trouble down Liverpool’s left at Wembley and Di Matteo would be hoping that the combined speed of him and Torres can cause havoc at Anfield.

Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech(GK); Bosingwa, Terry(c), Ivanovic, Bertrand; Essien, Meireles; Malouda, Mata, Ramires; Torres

Key Match Facts

  1. This will be the 32nd time in the last 8 seasons that these two clubs have met.
  2. Since Roberto Di Matteo took over as caretaker manager, his record reads P18 W12 D4 L2.
  3. This match will be the first time Fernando Torres returns to Anfield as a Chelsea player.
  4. Both teams are coming off home defeats in the league.
  5. Going into their last home game, Liverpool have only won an atrocious 5 matches at home all season, with 9 draws and 4 losses.
  6. Both teams’ striker problems are evident from the fact that only one striker from both teams has reached the double figure mark in the league this season – Suarez (11), Sturridge (11).

TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out For

Andy Carroll (Liverpool)

After a cameo that emphatically disproved Kenny Dalglish’s decision to not start him in the Wembley final, Andy Carroll will be itching to go out and further prove his point.

Liverpool’s £35 million number 9 does contain a unique set of characteristics and if in full flow, could indeed trouble the best of defences. But it remains to be seen whether he is better as an impact player or a starter.

Fernando Torres (Chelsea)

At the other end of the pitch will be the other much maligned striker in England. Fernando Torres will also be the focus of everyone at Anfield and recently, he has been close to the same lethal Torres that defences around England had come to fear.

With a combined value of £85 million, the above two strikers will start together for the first time, giving the perfect platform for critics to compare the two directly.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Liverpool 2-2 Chelsea

This could be an open game, which is something of a rarity between the two sides. Dalglish will rectify his mistakes and play a more attacking side, but Liverpool have struggled at Anfield this season. We’ll go with a score draw at Anfield with both the expensive strikers getting a goal.

TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past

Here’s a look back at the day Chelsea’s owner decided Torres will be his next signing.

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