These two sides have built a rivalry between themselves in recent years, when Rafael Benitez was in charge at Liverpool.
Rafael Benitez started out with 1-0 losses in both Premier League meetings with Chelsea in his first season before losing to the Blues in the Carling Cup final. But fixture 5 against Jose Mourinho’s side was his biggest success over Chelsea’s, with Luis Garcia’s “goal” that sent Liverpool into the Champions League final, a trophy that his side would go on to lift, and one that Chelsea have failed to win a further five times since.
Meeting twice in the Premier League each season, they would face each in four more season’s of Champions League action. The first, two scoreless draws in the group stage of the 2006 competition, and then again in 2007 where Liverpool would go on to win the semi final showdown on penalties before losing to AC Milan in the final. Since then, the momentum has shifted. Chelsea eliminated Liverpool 4-3 on aggregate in 2008 en route to their final and 7-5 in 2009. Chelsea won both Premier League meetings between these two sides 2-0 last season, the second at Anfield in the penultimate game of the season that essentially won them the Premier League title in Carlo Ancelotti’s first season.
Carlo Ancelotti is building up some resume in English football. In 48 league matches, his side have won 35 of them, drawing on 6 occasions and losing just 7 times; 3 of those to Manchester City. He has a 2-0-0 head-to-head record against Liverpool without conceding a goal. His Chelsea side this season look relatively assured at the back this season, and more so than they did last season when they conceded 32 goals. They have allowed just 3 goals so far this season, although it is worth noting they have all been on their travels. Some games, they’re like a machine going forward. Chelsea are the team to beat domestically this season.
Roy Hodgson’s early record at Liverpool in the Premier League has seen him win 3, draw 3 and lose 4. This includes a 3-0 thumping at Manchester City and a 2-1 home loss to Luke Varney and Blackpool. They come into this match on a winning streak, having beat Blackburn and Bolton by the single goal in back-to-back games. They also notched up a 3-1 win over Napoli in the Europa League on Thursday to get the Kop singing again. Roy Hodgson’s Fulham lost 2-0 at home to Chelsea last season, and 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Whether it’s Carlo versus Liverpool or Carlo versus Roy, the Italian comes into this match with the advantage.
Jose Reina vs Petr Cech
Side-by-side with Edwin van der Sar, Liverpool arguably have the best goalkeeper in the Premier League. The best in terms of consistency (ignore his error to hand Arsenal a point in their opening game), shot stopping and far and head in distribution. Jose Reina gets in a spot of bother at set pieces, but which goalkeepers don’t?
In the last few games, Petr Cech appears to be getting back to his best. The Czech has made some fantastic saves, during a many hour spell that he had kept the ball out of his net at Stamford Bridge before a Spartak Moscow consolation goal on Wednesday. He is certainly vulnerable at set pieces, but since the departure of Ricardo Carvalho, Chelsea have improved in this area. Helped with the likes of Didier Drogba, Alex and John Terry back there defending!
Man for man, Liverpool have the edge in this battle.
Fernando Torres vs John Terry
The Spaniard wasn’t risked for Thursday’s night’s clash with Napoli, a good decision from Roy Hodgson with Fernando Torres’ fitness problems over the last two seasons. Still a yard short of pace in my eyes, Torres’ touch isn’t what it was in his first season at Anfield. Clearly a lack of match fitness is affecting his game, so how much pressure will that add to his shoulders as the lone striker on Sunday. With John Terry and Alex keeping close guard on the World Cup winner, I wouldn’t expect him to have much free space or heading opportunities. If he is to score, you would have to look for it come from a counter attack or rebound. Dare I say he can produce a moment of inspiration once more?
Liverpool may struggle to supply Torres much in this match. I predict Chelsea’s defence to get the better of him here.
Didier Drogba vs Jamie Carragher
With the return of Glen Johnson, Jamie Carragher can be moved back into the centre of defence. He and Martin Skrtel have the task of dealing with Didier Drogba. Skrtel may have some success in the air against the Ivorian. Carragher won’t have any. Drogba is a powerhouse, so Liverpool’s defence needs to prevent him running at them. Stay tight, get a foot in early and foul if necessary. Otherwise Drogba will beat you.
The advantage is with Didier Drogba and Chelsea in this matchup.
Steven Gerrard vs Michael Essien
The return of Michael Essien has really helped Chelsea this season following his long lay off. The Ghanaian missed out on his country’s successful World Cup campaign but has looked fresh in midfield. Even scoring twice against West Ham. He’s a rock in front of the Chelsea back four, breaking up opposition attacks. Great in possession too, he enjoys to shoot from long range. Will be given one of his toughest tests of the season should Steven Gerrard play off Fernando Torres in this match. Essien will need his concentration levels to be at their max to stay with the movement on Gerrard. And when Chelsea are on the attack, Gerrard should be able to help deal with the likes of Malouda or even Drogba while Essien stays outside the penalty area.
Face-to-face, the edge is with Liverpool in this battle.
Florent Malouda vs Glen Johnson
Glen Johnson returned on Thursday night to play his first game since England’s goalless draw with Montenegro on Thursday. He was guilty of giving the ball away on several occasions, but did win the penalty that gave Liverpool a late lead, doing what he does well and running into defenders. Going forward he has to deal with the pacey Florent Malouda and then Ashley Cole. Defending, he is outnumbered again. And Johnson’s defensive skills are questionable at the best of times. He’s going to have to play out of his skin to prevent both Florent Malouda and Ashley Cole having and creating chances in this match. I don’t like the former Chelsea players’ odds given the goals scored by Malouda this season and the attacking prowess Cole has shown.
This battle favours Chelsea.
Nicolas Anelka vs Paul Konchesky
On the other flank sees Nicolas Anelka come up against Paul Konchesky. The former Fulham player reunited with Roy Hodgson again this season has struggled in his early days at Anfield. He looked like a fish out of water when facing Nani at Old Trafford before Hodgson bailed him out in the final 10 minutes. Can be scared to make a challenge in the penalty area, which leads me to believe Anelka will enjoy great success down the right flank on Sunday. He’ll enjoy running at Konchesky with the hopes of getting by him to create a goalscoring opportunity for himself or a team mate, or draw a foul from the left back who picked up his first yellow card in the league last weekend. Anelka, in good form over the past week should head into this match up confident of adding to his goal tally.
This match up heavily favours Chelsea.
I expect Chelsea to remain the same as they have done this season. The main battle will come in the centre of pitch, where I’ve only mentioned Michael Essien and Steven Gerrard so far. Chelsea have Ramires and John Obi Mikel too. Ramires is starting to come good; capable of playing a great pass and dives in a bit. I’m still not an admirer of Mikel, but he does keep things simple. On the other side, Christian Poulsen and Raul Meireles have yet to come good for Liverpool. Joe Cole is a doubt for the game. Maxi Rodriguez scored the winner last weekend, while Ryan Babel isn’t getting a look in under Roy Hodgson.
I expect Liverpool to remain with Fernando Torres up front a loan from the start as Roy Hodgson plays a defensive side. He cannot be blamed with the difference in talent between the two sides. However, if he wants his side to score, Steven Gerrard needs to play behind Torres or at least more attacking than the holding role. Between Glen Johnson, Jamie Carragher and Paul Konchesky I cannot see all three of them having a perfect game and keeping Chelsea at bay.
Chelsea have the fire power in this match up, and should they not get careless or make mistakes at the back, another win to nil should be on the cards for them. Roy Hodgson will make them wait patiently, but ultimately I expect them to break the deadlock with the favourable matches they have going forward. Man for man, Chelsea are better than Liverpool. And as a team they have been playing together both longer and more successfully. Chelsea at 11/10 are good value for the 3 points on Sunday.