Skipper returns to take Chelsea into final day showdown
By Joe Carroll.
Chelsea play Liverpool this afternoon and will be looking to take nothing less than three points away from Anfield as the Premier League title race approaches it’s thrilling climax. The Blues go to Anfield for the first time this term for what is sure to be a heated affair knowing that a win will put them momentarily 4 points ahead of reigning champions Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson’s team play Sunderland hours later, and while Chelsea could theoretically have the championship all but sewn up come dinner time, it is unlikely that United will drop points at the Stadium of Light, never mind fail to collect any whatsoever.
If form is to continue though, we should see the race for the title carry on into next weekend’s final games. Chelsea, despite their stutter at White Hart Lane a fortnight ago are in championship-winning form scoring 23 goals in their last six games. Indeed two of those results have seen the boys in blue chalk up more than half of that total thanks to 7-1 and 7-0 wallopings against Aston Villa and Stoke City respectively.
And Chelsea fans will have even more reason to feel confident ahead of this afternoon’s clash at Anfield as captain John Terry returns from suspension after his two yellow cards against Tottenham Hotspur ensured he missed last weekend’s mauling of Stoke. Terry’s return will help to ensure the Chelsea back line do not suffer any complacency after last week’s stroll in the park. The Chelsea and England captain is more than used to playing under the big-game spotlight and Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti will be relieved to have his skipper available for selection.
“It will be difficult to change the team that played against Stoke- they played very well. But Terry needs to play.” said Ancelotti
Encounters between these two sides have always produced high intensity, highly physical and hotly contested matches, and if history is anything to go by we can expect plenty of goals- this fixture has yielded no more than 22 goals in the last six meetings between the two clubs.
In those encounters there had been much at stake for both clubs, be it battling out for an automatic Champions League place in the league, seeking the next round of the FA Cup or going head to head in Europe’s elite competition. Whilst Chelsea are desperate to claim the Premier League title for the first time since 2006, Liverpool are even more desperate not to let their slide down the Premier League pecking order continue. The Reds have a slim chance of making fourth spot, but with only two games left they will be relying on other clubs above them to drop points.
Ancelotti is one who doesn’t see this fiery fixture losing any of it’s heat because of Liverpool’s disappointing league position, and is more than wary about facing up against a team smarting from their Europa League semi-final exit to Athletico Madrid on Thursday night. Th Italian told the media:
“It is very difficult to win at Anfield because Liverpool are a strong team. But we need to try- we need to have three more points after Sunday”
As usual, Ancelotti is approaching this afternoon’s vital clash with calm and under no illusions as to the task that befalls them. At this stage of the season, points are even more precious and Liverpool should by no means be counted down or out. But with a near full strength team at the Italian’s fingertips the Stamford Bridge faithful will be confident that their team can put themselves in a commanding position going into the final game of the season.
A win this afternoon will increase the pressure on United’s clash at the Stadium of Light and if the Black Cats manage to turn out the light on their title hopes by holding the champions, then Chelsea will have clear daylight in their bid to lift their first Premier League crown in four years.
Chelsea: Captain Terry is expected to start in place of Branislav Ivanovich after serving a one-game suspension. Ashley Cole came through his return for the first team with no ill effects and should keep his place ahead of Yuri Zhirkov. John Obi Mikel, Jose Bosingwa and Michael Essien remain long-term absentees.
Liverpool: The Reds are suffering from a lack of attacking options as the season draws to a close with Fernando Torres and David Ngog both ruled out. Ryan Babel may well be expected to lead the attack on his own as he did in Europe in midweek. Martin Skrtel, Emiliano Insua and Fabio Aurelio are all out with injuries which may force Javier Mascherano to continue his foray at right back.
Possible Line Ups
Chelsea: Cech, A. Cole, Terry, Alex, Ferreira, Malouda, Lampard, Deco, J. Cole, Anelka, Drogba
Liverpool: Reina, Masherano, Agger, Carragher, Johnson, Gerrard, Lucas, Aquilani, Benayoun, Kuyt, Babel
Will Chelsea manage to beat Liverpool at Anfield? Please leave your comments below….
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