So Chelsea have one foot in the semi-finals of the Champions League after the marvellous 3-1 win at Anfield last week and Saturdays 4-3 win against Bolton was probably the kick up the backside the Blues needed. It’s easy to fall for the fallacy that Liverpool can’t overturn the deficit that they’ve given themselves from the first leg.
For me, there are 3 teams in Europe that you should never bet against overturning improbable results, Liverpool, Manchester United and Barcelona. Liverpool, especially in Europe have a history of doing the impossible, not just in 2005, but throughout their European campaigns going back to the 1960’s. Manchester United can always dig their way out of most holes and Barca have always had a player or two that can turn any game on it’s head but for Liverpool to pull this back would be a footballing miracle.
Hiddink’s been saying the right things since Saturday’s scare against Bolton, he knows that the worst thing for his players to think tonight is that they’re already in the semi-finals. That would play straight into Liverpool’s hands, though the fact Gerrard isn’t fit enough to even make the bench shows the size of the task ahead of them, yet with a player of Torres’ abilities and explosive finishing, an early goal could cause shock waves through Stamford Bridge.
Look at both of Torres’ goals on Saturday against Blackburn, the first an inspired half volley, the second was a towering header that saw him out jump the man mountain of Christoph Samba. Both finishes oozed class and panache and those goals will have shown Hiddink and his players that they cannot take the result for granted tonight.Torres can destroy Chelsea’s dreams if he gets any space at all.
Yet, let’s not do Chelsea down, they were magnificent at Anfield, Essien and Lampard inspired in midfield and Drogba was back to his bustling busy self. Hell, Hiddink’s even got Malouda playing somewhere near the form he showed for Lyon for so long. Lucky Guus, as his odd nickname in Holland shows, has been around far too long for him to take anything for granted. He’s shown throughout his career an ability to create sides that were much better than the sum of their parts, from PSV in the 80’s to Holland at France 98, South Korea in the 2002 World Cup and finally got Australia back to a World Cup after nearly 40 years.
He thrives on upsetting apple carts and throwing curve balls to the opposition and he has an eye on the prize of the glamour tie against Barcelona, who face a similar battle against complacency in Munich tonight. He knows that to get there, they have to navigate this tie tonight and he will have instilled in his team the need to keep fighting as if the game was 0-0. Nothing derails tactics more than a team thinking about the game after the one they are playing and that is the only thing that can stop the Blues taking their place in the semi-finals.
Liverpool have to come and go for it, they have nothing to lose and need to either win by 3 goals or score at least 4 with a 2 goal margin of victory. The task facing Liverpool is enormous but Hiddink will take nothing for granted. Let’s just hope it’s a cracking match and may the best team take the spoils.