In case you hadn’t realized, there has been quite a noticeable rivalry developing between Liverpool and Chelsea over the last decade or so. If we are to look back at recent seasons then many of the most significant, if not controversial moments have emerged about when these two clubs lock horns.
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These include the Luis Garcia “goal” in 2005 that paved the way to European glory for the Reds, an incident which still riles former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho to this very day. Liverpool then won their second Champions League semi final in three years against Chelsea after a dramatic penalty shoot-out in 2007. The season after John Arne Riise’s 94th minute own goal gave Chelsea the initiative to snatch revenge against Liverpool, as they returned the favor in 2008, dumping the Reds out of the competition at the Semi Final stage. Chelsea went through again in 2009 as the two sides met in a fantastic 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge, which in turn sent Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea side into the semi-finals of the Champions League. Throw in a Carling Cup Final, managerial flare-ups and an ill tempered £50m transfer of Fernando Torres, and its fair to say that the two sets of fans aren’t exactly keen on one another.
The Liverpool faithful bait Chelsea for having “no history”, whilst the Chelsea fans respond that Liverpool’s is now “ancient”. Pretty fiery stuff.
The latest segment in the recent saga between the two clubs takes place in the FA Cup final this Saturday. And whilst both sides have struggled in the Premier League this season, the final looks set to be another explosive encounter, as they have seemingly saved their best form for the cup competitions this campaign. Liverpool are looking to record their third win in three appearances at the new Wembley (as well as their second trophy) whilst Chelsea will be looking to build on the form that has seen them reach their second ever Champions League final, after overcoming Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate in the semi final. With both sides overcoming local rivals at Wembley in games the prior to the final, their respective fans will be expectant that their team will be picking up a trophy come 8pm BST on Saturday night, in a game which looks exceptionally tricky to call.
Here’s the brief on both teams, including some of the key questions that Roberto Di Matteo and Kenny Dalglish may have to ponder before the teams kick off on Saturday.
Likely line ups:
Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Henderson, Gerrard, Spearing, Downing, Carroll, Suarez
Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Meireles, Lampard, Ramires, Mata, Drogba
In the two previous meetings between the sides this campaign, the Reds have come out on top. In the Premier League game, we have seen Liverpool snatch a late winner thanks to Glen Johnson, whereas in the Carling Cup quarter final goals from Maxi and Kelly saw Liverpool secure two wins at the Bridge in little under ten days. The second Premier League meeting comes four days after the Cup Final at Anfield on May 8th.
20/11/2011: Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool (Sturridge 55′ ; Maxi 33′, Johnson 87′)
29/11/2011: Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool (Maxi 58′, Kelly 63′)
Liverpool are 11-1 to beat Chelsea 2-1 and complete a domestic cup double. Get your free £50 bet on the FA Cup final here.
Path to the FA Cup Final:
Chelsea: Chelsea 4-0 Portsmouth, QPR 0-1 Chelsea, Chelsea 1-1 Birmingham, Birmingham 0-2 Chelsea, Chelsea 5-2 Leicester, Tottenham 1-5 Chelsea.
Liverpool: Liverpool 5-1 Oldham, Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United, LIverpool 6-1 Brighton, Liverpool 2-1 Stoke, Liverpool 2-1 Everton
United States: Coverage begins at 12:15pm ET on FOX Soccer/FOX Deportes (available after 2:30pm ET from FOX Soccer 2Go)
United Kingdom: Coverage begins on ESPN at 8am BST.
Terry vs Suarez:
The Chelsea skipper will be keen to make amends for his absence in the Champions League Final by leading his team to glory at Wembley. To do so, he will have to halt the mercurial Luis Suarez who comes into the game on the back of a stunning hat-trick against Norwich. The Uruguayan has proven to be unplayable at times this season as his balance, agility and close control will no doubt be a big concern to the Chelsea back four. Terry will have to be at his best to nullify Suarez’s threat, especially if he will have to cope with the physical threat posed by Andy Carroll in tandem with the brilliance of Suarez. If the Liverpool number seven is at his best, it could tip the balance in the favor of the Reds.
Lampard vs Gerrard:
Two legendary midfielders for their teams! Such is the nature of the important goals these two have scored over throughout their careers, you would not bet against either scoring the winner on Saturday. Lampard plays a less dynamic, but as equally significant role for Chelsea these days, having operated in a deeper role for the majority of the season. He does have the insurance of Mikel and Meireles in midfield alongside him however, which allows him to continue making his trademark bursts into the penalty box. Gerrard will have to be at his best in order to control a midfield in which Chelsea’s system may see him outnumbered. He has proved to be Liverpool’s talisman in the FA Cup Final before however, after he lead Liverpool to victory in the 2006 final with two crucial goals. Lampard also has history in the final of the competition, after he netted the winner for Chelsea in 2009. Both have been ‘big game players’ over the years and the performance of each will be tantamount in determining the destination of the FA Cup come Saturday evening.
Steven Gerrard is always a sure bet to score in a big game for Liverpool. Back him at 11/1 to score on Saturday.
Mata vs Johnson:
Johnson has already netted one winner against his former club this season and has offered a quality attacking threat from full-back for the Reds. His defensive capabilities have come under scrutiny however and he will be up against one of the Premier Leagues top performers in Juan Mata. Mata will line up from the left hand side but likes to float between the lines and find space in front of the opposing back four. Johnson will have to decide when to stay tight with Mata and when to let him go in order to keep the Liverpool back four compact. Teams that have fared well against Chelsea this season have negated Mata’s influence, if he see’s little of the ball then Chelsea could struggle to break through a solid Liverpool defense.
Should Torres or Drogba start for Chelsea?:
Di Matteo, in particular has a big decision to make in regards to who he chooses to spearhead the Chelsea attack, as he must decide between Didier Drogba and former-red Fernando Torres. Both have been in excellent form as of late and the decision could prove crucial to Chelsea’s chances. Drogba has an outstanding record for Chelsea in major finals, whereas Torres scored a hattrick in last weekends game against QPR, signaling his intent to secure a final berth. Whichever marksman the Chelsea manager chooses to go with, the Liverpool back line could be in for a difficult afternoon. It maybe the Ivorian’s big game pedigree and ability to hold the ball up that see’s him get the nod, with Torres used as a late impact substitute. A tactic that they may look to use again after it proved to be very effective in the Camp Nou last week.
Such is the erratic form both sides this campaign it is difficult to make a prediction based on how well either team is playing. I think the game has the makings of a tight affair that may open up towards the end of the ninety minutes when the pace of Bellamy and Torres will be introduced. My gut feeling suggests Liverpool may shade this one, with the quality of Suarez proving to be the difference between the sides.
Liverpool 2-1 Chelsea
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