By Shikharr Chandra
At the start of the season, Jose Mourinho was arguably seen as the godfather given that three of his protégés in Brendan Rodgers, Steve Clarke and Andre Villas-Boas were managing three Premier League clubs. However as we enter the New Year period only one of them hasn’t been given the boot – Brendan Rodgers.
The relationship between Rodgers and Mourinho is based on mutual respect. Texts messages have been exchanged between the duo even when Mourinho was not in the Premier League and no love has been lost, now that Rodgers gets set to take on the man who introduced him to the big stage in football.
Back when Mourinho first took charge of the Pensioners almost a decade back, he had Rodgers under his tutelage to develop the young talent at the club. The Irishman was soon promoted as the reserve team boss before he left for Watford and a brief stint at Reading followed soon.
But it was at Swansea where Rodgers realised his true potential. He took the Welsh from the lows of the Championship to a successful stint in the Premier League. Rodgers got the team to play ‘pass-and-move’ brand of football and even when they did make it to the Premier League, the style wasn’t compromised upon which won him many plaudits.
Unlike Rodgers, Mourinho is known for his pragmatic style where winning matters the most as opposed to the brand of football played.
It must be noted herein that last season when Rodgers first took charge of Liverpool, many results didn’t go in their favour but the manager was intent of his squad learning to play beautiful football. The results of his persistence can be seen this term as Liverpool are one of the most attractive sides to watch.
“Brendan was brilliant for me and the other players when he was at Chelsea”
On the other hand, Mourinho was brought back at Stamford Bridge by owner Roman Abramovich as he wished to see ‘Barcelona-esque’ football. However following the Capital One Cup exit earlier this month, the Portuguese manager mentioned of reverting back to his old ways of registering 1-0 victories as his side in order to get the desired results.
“Football is about getting results and it's quite frustrating as we may have to take a step back in order to be more consistent at the back. It's something I don't want to do, to play more counterattacking, but I'm giving it serious thought. If I want to win 1-0 I think I can as I think it is one of the easiest things in football. It is not so difficult, as you don't give players the chance to express themselves,” said Mourinho.
Compare that to Rodgers’ “attractive, attacking football” with a stress on “winning in a certain way”. Not that he was to achieve this overnight but he had the patience and also mentioned in the owners in an180-page manifesto where he categorically mentioned:
“We're looking to introduce our identity to the team and that is going to take a bit of time."
So when the duo face-off on Sunday, it will be a chance to see which of the two philosophies comes out victorious. Rodgers's Liverpool are just a point behind Chelsea in the league table and a win at Stamford Bridge could see them to third spot.
On the other hand, Mourinho stands tall with an impressive unbeaten home record with the Blues. But on current form one would fancy Rodgers to be the one to finally end Mourinho's impressive run.
Liverpool suffered a 2-1 defeat against Manchester City at the Etihad but their impressive display earlier this week highlighted that the going wouldn’t be easy for Chelsea on Sunday.
Mourinho has a conundrum in hand as he has misfiring strikers, who haven't scored an away goal in the whole of 2013 and have scored a combined total of five goals in the league, one more than what Luis Suarez managed against Norwich alone.
To make things worse the former Real Madrid manager, he will be without the services of Ramires in midfield after he picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in their last game.
Ramires has started each of the 18 matches in the league for Chelsea and has been a key cog in the 4-2-3-1 formation deployed. Against the big sides, the formation changes its shape to a 4-3-3 with Ramires drifting in the midfield after starting as a right winger.
Liverpool’s strength lies in Chelsea’s weakness. The former Swansea manager boasts the Premier League's top scorer in his ranks and an equally good midfield despite missing key players. Liverpool will be without Steven Gerrard, but the impressive performance of Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen have ensured that their performance hasn’t dipped.
The Liverpool trio were impressive against the double pivot of Manchester City and Tottenham in their away fixtures and coming up against a rather weakened Chelsea midfield should be far easier than what they have already faced this season.
Rodgers has found a goal scoring combination in Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling with the trio impressive when going forward.
Chelsea have failed to do despite boasting a wealth of creative midfielders. Goals have been hard to come by for Mourinho's side and they have ben defensively fragile too.
There is no doubt that Mourinho might have a trick or two up his sleeve when he welcomes Rodgers but on Liverpool on current form will be the trickiest opponent’s Chelsea will come up against.