Liverpool vs Chelsea: Blues aim to prove it’s a long, lonely walk back to the top
Written by Joe Carroll.
For Chelsea, their mid-week break from domestic action saw them entertain Russian giants Spartak Moscow in the UEFA Champions League. Overcoming the 21 time league winning outfit was a demonstration of their European prowess and shows just how well established they are in the competition that they could so easily brush aside a team with enough Euro pedigree of its own without really having to get out of first gear.
Liverpool on the other hand were having a very different mid-week adventure. Reluctantly finding themselves playing Europa League football, they hosted an Italian side who have been praised for their early season form. Anfield may be used to welcoming the likes of Milan’s two footballing icons or the vastly decorated clubs of Turin and Rome, but on Thursday night, fans seemed far too aware that they were playing host to Napoli. Who? Let me tell you.
Napoli are perhaps most famous for their success in the 1980 (not too different from Liverpool as you can see) and for having perhaps the world’s greatest footballer on their side- Diego Maradona. Unfortunately this success did not carry on into the 90’s (again, not too dissimilar from the fortunes of the Kop) and the Napalese watched on as Inter, AC, Juventus, Roma and Lazio dominated the heights of Italian, not to mention world football. In fact, in 2004 Napoli were relegated to Italy’s third tier after bankruptcy forced them to sell their best players and only in 2007 did they make a top-flight return.
Hopefully I’ve made my point and as I’m sure most people are already aware, Liverpool go into this game as underdogs. They may not be happy with the tag, goodness knows its not one they’re used to, but they must face facts. A club that once walked with the admiration of European and world football are now on their knees, struggling to overcome a 2nd rate Italian side. Had it not been for the heroics of Captain Fantastic with his second half introduction, Roy Hodgson would be approaching this game with even more disdain than he already does.
Returning to Chelsea though, the much rosier picture of football; undoubted Premier League and European giants. Liverpool may have sackfuls of history to their name, but one trophy in the five years that Chelsea have managed no fewer than eight domestic trophies tells its own story. Anfield, a ground whose role has taken on that of a WW2 memorial; a bombed out church where once great things happened. Now, reduced to place of homage where followers come and go to mourn the losses. Chelsea will arrive as league leaders and an abundance of confidence that deservedly follows a team of their calibre about.
Whilst Liverpool have experienced a mini-revival in recent weeks, Chelsea have gone from strength to strength both abroad and at home. They showed tremendous character to come from a goal down at Ewood Park last weekend; grabbing all three points late on in the game. Carlo Ancelotti knows that Liverpool, despite the league wins against Blackburn and Bolton, are still weak and that they are not out of the woods just yet. Such fixtures as the one that will be played out on Sunday were once the envy of a nation; of Europe in fact. A fierce rivalry has developed between the two clubs on the basis of Champions League semi-final clashes. Whilst Liverpool were still contending at the right end of the Premier League, this rivalry took on a domestic dimension with both teams and sets of fans eager not to surrender precious bragging rights.
Liverpool have suffered a long fall from grace, and they have taken several knocks on the way down, not helped by the takeover saga at Anfield. Their club motto is “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and from a Chelsea perspective, Sunday will be the perfect chance for them to prove to the Merseysiders that this is not just a blip that can be overcome with two wins against mid-table sides. It’s what happens when the big-hitters come knocking- the English champions who have aspirations for European domination. Chelsea have an opportunity to prove to these fallen-giants that its a long walk back to the top and despite the rousing nature of their motto, it’s a very, very lonely walk.
Chelsea: Captain John Terry will return to the side after being rested in midweek. Frank Lampard, having been expected to be back for this fixture is likely to miss out after complications in his return to fitness. And while Michael Essien may also miss out with a toe injury, the good news is that Florent Malouda is expected to shake off the groin injury that kept him out against Spartak Moscow.
Liverpool: Former Chelsea man Joe Cole will miss the game through injury- he has a hamstring strain. Glen Johnson should make a return to action and forward Dirk Kuyt could make an invaluable appearance after being injured with an ankle problem.
Possible Starting Line-Ups
Chelsea: Cech, Cole, Terry, Alex, Ivanovich, Malouda, Mikel, Kalou, Ramires, Anelka, Drogba
Liverpool: Reina, Konchesky, Carragher, Kyriakos, Johnson, Gerrard, Lucas, Maxi, Meireles, Kuyt, Torres
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