This season, Liverpool have endured their worst league start in over a hundred years, are currently operating with just one fit senior striker and have just suffered a 1-0 defeat to Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League. On the other hand, their opponents Chelsea are the reigning European champions, they sit second in the league and are still buzzing following their last-gasp victory over Shakhtar Donetsk in their midweek European fixture.
On the surface, this encounter seems like a forgone conclusion but the Reds have shown in recent years that despite their poor form over the course of a season, they are still capable of mixing it with the big-hitters when the occasion comes around.
Brendan Rodgers has tried to revolutionize Liverpool’s style of play and the transition is understandably proving to be time consuming. However, they are only two points ahead of 17th placed, Aston Villa and putting some points on the board during this transitional phase would go a long way to easing the pressure on the Irishman.
Rodgers needs points to go with promise
Perhaps the reason why the Anfield faithful have refrained from turning on their new manager thus far is that they are seeing glimpses of Rodgers’ style coming good on the field. The 2-5 victory at Carrow Road immediately comes to mind while they have put on a good show against some of the better teams in the league as well. If their encounters with the two Manchester clubs are anything to go by, Liverpool fans should be optimistic of their side putting a lot of points on the board in the second half of the season.
Liverpool’s 2-2 draw against the defending league champions in their second game of the season was a timely reminder that the Merseyside club should never be taken lightly in big games. They were the better side over ninety minutes and they would have secured all three points but for a suicidal misplaced back-pass from Martin Skrtel which allowed City to salvage a draw. They suffered a 1-2 defeat to United at Anfield but they were unfortunate to have lost and their performance in the game won them the respect and support of their fans.
Everton have had a tremendous start to their season and sit fourth in the table. For the first time in years, the Blue half of Merseyside were unanimous favourites when derby day came around but Liverpool did well to rise to the occasion once more to earn a well-deserved point and could have so easily come away with all three if Luis Suarez’s stoppage time goal wasn’t controversially ruled out for offside.
The Uruguayan will no doubt be a cause for concern for a questionable Chelsea defence. If the hosts fail to neutralize Liverpool's talisman, they may be in for a long night. His goal against Newcastle United last week epitomized the quality he possesses and allowing him any sort of room in and around the penalty area could prove fatal. With 10 goals and 4 assists in just 15 games for an otherwise misfiring Liverpool, the controversial forward is in devastating form and could unlock Chelsea's defence single-handedly.
The threat of Suarez
From Chelsea’s point of view, their season is still looking up despite losing their place at the top of the league table last week. A defeat to United at Stamford Bridge and a draw away to Swansea City had slightly dampened spirits within the London-based club but their dramatic victory over Shakhtar was the perfect tonic to overcome those blues.
However, the point must be made that Roberto Di Matteo hasn’t rested many of his players over the course of this particularly difficult stretch of fixtures and that may be a slight disadvantage when they take on Liverpool tonight. After their defeat to United in the league, Di Matteo used most of the same players in another gruelling encounter with Sir Alex Ferguson’s troops which went into extra-time when the two sides squared-off in the league cup a couple of days later. His first team then laboured their way to a point against Swansea before being put through their paces by a very good Shakhtar side.
Meanwhile, Liverpool haven’t been blessed with the kind of squad depth befitting a club of their stature but Rodgers’ clearly prioritizes their position in the league over their exploits in other competitions. The Liverpool boss wrung the changes for their game against Anzhi and will retain a fresh starting line-up for the trip to Stamford Bridge.
After United’s thrilling comeback over Aston Villa last night, the Red Devils have pulled four points clear of the Blues at the top of the table. The pressure is now on Di Matteo’s men to beat Liverpool tonight and keep up with the league leader but that’s easier said than done despite Liverpool’s lowly position in the league.
As mentioned earlier, games against Liverpool have been a potential banana skin for the top four teams in recent years but perhaps an even more relevant fact is that they have been a thorn in Chelsea’s side in particular. Liverpool have surprisingly emerged victorious in all four of the previous league meetings between the two sides. In fact, the last time the Reds lost at Stamford Bridge was back in 2009.Chelsea did get the better of them at Wembley in the FA Cup final last season but on the whole, Liverpool have always been a threat to the Blues. A win tonight for Rodgers would ensure further belief in his regime while a Chelsea win would re-enforce their claim to the Premier League crown. Liverpool have a tendency to lift their game on the big stage and we could witness a typically zealous performance from the visitors tonight.
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