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Ancelotti faces welcome selection dilemma ahead of Liverpool grudge match

Appearances can be deceiving. On paper, a 4-2 victory away from home against a side who have just sold their top scorer may look comfortable, maybe even a formality. But in truth, Chelsea's victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light was a hard-fought and clinical victory against a side who outplayed both Manchester United and Arsenal in the north-east.

As Phil Bardsley, scorer of the game’s first goal within five minutes of the kick-off, told reporters after the game, Sunderland went for the jugular from the outset and Chelsea gave as good as they got, even more so.

The two outstanding performances came from players who perhaps feel under the most pressure from the imminent arrival of Fernando Torres. Nicolas Anelka, playing in the pocket of space behind Didier Drogba, caused the Sunderland backline the kind of headache brain surgeons live for. This, combined with the incisive movement of Salomon Kalou, proved too much for a formidable Sunderland defense to cope with.

This was exemplified perfectly in Chelsea’s second goal, Anelka sprung onto a loose ball in midfield and Titus Bramble stepped up to try to intercept. Anton Ferdinand dawdled only for a moment, but by the time he’d spotted the danger Kalou had darted into the gap and Anelka had picked him out with a perfectly placed pass into the space between the Sunderland center-backs.

It was Kalou’s first opening of the game and he didn’t hesitate for a moment as he capitalized on the otherwise excellent Craig Gordon’s haphazard willingness to race off his line, slotting the ball beyond the Scot to give his side the lead.

The elephant in the room is Drogba. The Ivorian looked ordinary up against Bramble and Ferdinand and based upon Tuesday night’s performance, it’s hard to justify why he should keep his place in the side at the expense of Kalou or Anelka. At his best, he’s a behemoth that bullies defenses into submission. Right now, he looks weak and doesn’t provide the same guile as Anelka or the puncturing movement of Kalou.

How might Chelsea line up against Liverpool
?

Ancelotti hinted at his plans for Sunday's grudge match against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge after the Sunderland victory. "Anelka played very well behind the striker tonight and has the ability to play there," said the Italian. "So now we have the opportunity to put him behind the strikers."

So how might that look, and who might fit where in the rest of the Chelsea team?

4-1-2-1-2


GOALKEEPER

Cech


RIGHT-BACK
CENTER-BACK
CENTER-BACK
LEFT-BACK

Bosingwa

Ivanovic

Terry

Cole

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD

Essien

CENTER MIDFIELD
CENTER MIDFIELD

Lampard

Malouda

ATTACKING MIDFIELD

Anelka

CENTER FORWARD
CENTER FORWARD

Drogba

Torres


There are certainly options - the in-form Kalou could retain his place with the comparatively out of sorts Malouda remaining as a very useful substitute. And new £20m signing David Luiz could make his debut in defence, which would likely see Branislav Ivanovic shift out to right-back, displacing Jose Bosingwa.

And that's assuming Ancelotti opts for a 4-1-2-1-2 formation. A 4-2-3-1 would see Torres on his own up front, supported by Anelka and incredibly Drogba - for so long Chelsea's talismanic forward - watching on from the bench.

Regardless, Chelsea head into the Liverpool match in their most buoyant mood for some time. They were forced to go toe-to-toe with an impressive Sunderland in the first half but then stepped it up and completely dominated the second half, their superiority summed up by the myriad of shots raining in on Gordon's goal in the build up to Terry's effort that put Chelsea 3-2 up.

For the past few weeks, the question has been "have Chelsea turned the corner?" Far from it - they are back on the straight and narrow. And now they have a £50m striker with a point to prove.

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