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Liverpool facing test of strength

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Phil McNulty | 10:07 UK time, Friday, 24 October 2008

Liverpool fans have seen vital signs that this could actually be the season when a serious Premier League title challenge materialises out of Anfield.

Rafael Benitez has what is widely accepted to be the strongest squad he has assembled since arriving at Anfield from Valencia in 2004.

This increased strength is augmented by the presence of two genuine world-class match winners in Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

And, perhaps more importantly, Liverpool are demonstrating a grinding resilience that is enabling them to get wins from games they may have drawn - or even lost - in previous seasons.

Middlesbrough. Manchester United. Marseille. Manchester City. Wigan Athletic. All teams beaten despite taking the lead.

So far so good. But if there is a game that will enable us to deliver a more defining verdict on the seriousness of Liverpool's title aspirations, it comes at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

If Liverpool can go to Chelsea and match a side playing wonderfully fluent attacking football, married to their time-honoured defensive steel, then they might really start to believe they will last the course.

The Liverpool camp is buoyant and understandably so. Former manager Roy Evans has joined midfield man Xabi Alonso in exuding an air of confidence about a trip to a ground which has brought little other than disappointment for Benitez.

And it would provide an almost incalculable level of confidence if Liverpool actually ended Chelsea's 86-game unbeaten sequence at home in the Premier League.

Easier said than done though - and more difficult if, as expected, the talismanic Torres' is missing from the starting line-up.

I said in a previous blog that I had doubts about whether Liverpool's all-round squad strength was good enough to match Manchester United's or Chelsea's.

This judgement still stands, but we will have a better idea after Sunday and it must be said that Liverpool have done almost everything asked of them so far this season.

They outplayed Manchester United at Anfield, cruised past Everton at Goodison Park and recovered spectacularly to beat Manchester City at Eastlands.

The optimists will suggests this shows the new resilience - the cynics will suggest their luck will run out sooner or later.

Liverpool will need to show more to convince me they can win the title, but this season has shown more promise than others, even last term when they made another good start.

They have yet to really hit top form and keep winning - a good title indicator - while Benitez has seemingly accepted he needs Torres and Gerrard playing in every game to win the title.

Liverpool may have got by without them in the starting team against Manchester United, but they will not win the title if either is sidelined for a serious period of time.

Chelsea, on the other hand, will see this as an opportunity to puncture the growing and justified optimism inside Anfield.

Jose Mourinho's work at Chelsea (and I make no apologies for being a huge fan of The Special One) was a masterclass in coaching. He is sorely missed in the Premier League.

rafa438.jpg

But under Luiz Felipe Scolari they have discovered an extra dimension that has made them easy on the eye as well as serial winners.

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill was glowing in his praise for Chelsea after they were beaten at Stamford Bridge.

And an allegedly under-strength Chelsea could have racked up double figures in the 5-0 win at Middlesbrough.

Deco has added fluency to their play and the passing and movement fostered under Scolari has been spectacular to watch at times - and just in case we forget the Champions League win against Roma showed they can still be hard-nosed when required.

And Scolari's charisma is winning friends for a club that lost a few thanks to Mourinho's own particular brand of gunboat diplomacy - although I never had a problem with the added excitement he provided.

The Brazilian has walked into Chelsea's dressing room and commanded instant respect. He has grasped the language and it was refreshing to hear him regard an apparent injury crisis as a test of his abilities as a coach rather than a cue for excuses.

It is unlikely we will discover anything we did not already know about Chelsea on Sunday, but it is an opportunity for Liverpool to prove much about how strong they can be this season.

Liverpool's confidence levels are high. And they will need to be if they are to come through their most thorough examination of the season so far.

If they emerge unscathed from Stamford Bridge on Sunday, then there is every reason for Liverpool fans to feel their excellent start this season is not simply another false dawn.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I'd like a draw out of this one but I can't see anything but a Chelsea win. The way they are playing and with their awesome home record, they will sneak it i feel.

    Skrtel being out for Liverpool is a big blow as Agger is vastly overrated and makes Carra have to do twice as much covering to make up for Aggers bad positioning.

    I know Liverpool have come on this yr but they are shipping goals which they haven't done in previous seasons. And I honestly believe that if United had played them 3 weeks later they would have at least got a draw out of it....not that i'm bias or anything....

  • Comment number 2.

    The scene is set for Sunday's game to be a great spectacular - if not spectacularly great!

    Liverpool have the confidence to take on Chelsea and the steel to not panic if they go a goal behind.

    Both teams would probably settle for a draw, which given recent history has got to be the most likely result.

    There is, though, a danger that too much emphasis will be placed on the result. If Liverpool win, it will still be far too early to name them as serious contenders; similarly if they lose they will not be out of the race.

    If nothing else, Sunday's game should be exciting a highly competitive. Can't wait!

  • Comment number 3.

    Phil

    I think you've made the point that Liverpool keep going for the full 90 minutes but, and maybe crucially, their opponents have not always had 11 men for 90 minutes.

    Whilst Liverpool are doing very well it was only 2 seasons ago that Liverpool lost to a Chelsea side that had Ballack sent off just in the second half.

    Overall though, I agree that for Liverpool to win on Sunday would really add some flesh to the bones of being taken very seriously this season.

    Prediction? A draw or a Chelsea win. Can't see Terry, Carvalho & Cech being out done.

  • Comment number 4.

    Liverpool have ground out several results this season that in recent seasons would have seen them drop points.

    Torres and Gerrard are the heartbeat of Liverpool and without Torres cutting edge Liverpool are just another average team.

    I predict Liverpool with frustrate the Chelski and hold out for a 0-0 or a 1-1.

    Without Torres Liverpool simply cannot beat Chelsea.

    If Torres and Gerrard are fit for the majority of the season and one, perhaps two quality players are added in the transfer window then Liverpool will compete this year.

    PS Skrtel's injury may prove a massive blow to the title credentials. He was looking rock solid.

  • Comment number 5.

    I want to believe that this sunday will answer the 'Can they/Can't they?' question for Liverpool this season.

    I suspect the reality is that the match will be dull as dishwater, and answer no questions whatsoever.

    A teams title aspirations are better judged on whether you can grind out 3 points at a stubborn Mid-table team when things aren't going well and no-one really fancies it.

  • Comment number 6.

    Pretty good article their Phil, not always your biggest fan but this was nicely even handed. It's going to be really tough and I have an awful feeling Chelsea will win this, but I believe we have it in us to get at least a draw.

    I think many Liverpool fans would agree when I say that even if we lose and even if we don't win the title this season we'd be happy with at least a title challenge.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good post Phil although I have to agrre to disagree over Mourinho. A good coach, yes but, no he didnt make thing more exciting for me. He didnt annoy me like he did some other people, I just thought he was tiresome to be honest and so unnecessary. Him and Wenger have to be the most appalling losers in the history of the PL!
    Anyway the game on Sunday. As you can see, a Liverpool fan! Yes it will be a real test for us on Sunday, one I would have hoped we could go for with the likes of Torres fit. If all others are fit I think we'll give them a good game and i can forsee a 1-1 or 2-2.
    I dont see us winning at SB. However if it goes pear shaped -ill-discipline, lack of concentration in defence, it could be embarassing -3-1 or more to the blues.
    I do think it will be a good game, better than recent lge encounters at the bridge.

  • Comment number 8.

    great blog. sundays game will be the defining moment of liverpools season. win or draw they are genuine title contenders. lose: and they are back to square one, and out of the title race by christmas.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think saying out the title race based on our first loss away against a team undefeated in 4 years is a wee bit premature considering how many the mancs lost last year and still won.

    We lost less but threw away points in games we are now winning this season.

  • Comment number 10.

    They way I see it there are 2 possibilities to Liverpool's season.

    1. They progress from being fortunate winners, to a side whose performances improve and the points keep rolling in. If they're still near the top in January, they can begin to think about a title challenge.

    2. Benitez will make a horrendous, jaw dropping decision; that everyone sees as folly except the man himself. This one decision will begin the downturn of fortune and the likelihood of being near the top in Januray extremely low.

    Last year, Liverpools season fell apart when Liverpool drew in the league with Pompey. Rafa then rested Torres in a league game away at Birmingham (resulted in a draw), played him 4 days later in the Carling Cup against Reading (he scored a hat trick) and then rested him again the following weekend for the league.

    Liverpool dropped points and didn't recover. This was their turning point of the season.

    On November 8th Liverpool have West Brom in the league (home), November 12th Spurs in the Carling Cup (Away), then November 15th Bolton in the league (Away).

    At this point Rafa will make his one terrible decision of the season (he'll rest big players in league games to play in cup games) and any chance of a league title this year will come crashing down.

  • Comment number 11.

    Liverpool title contenders????? They are lacking in squad strength although the first 11 look ok. Jamie Cara 'I retiring from the national team because I feel that I am better then I really am' is a definate weak link in their team which Anelka's pace will expose.
    As for Benitez, if I spent the amount of money that he has then I would expect to be in with a shout. The only thing he is in with a shout with is being the biggest whinger of the season for 5th consecutive time.
    It's time for these overrated northerners to shut up and play up, then, 20 games in if they are still there, start the talking.

  • Comment number 12.

    im not too optimistic about a win. fair enough we scalped Man U without Torres/Gerrard but that was at home and when united hadnt got into gear yet. sunday we're playing a team that is most definitely THE team to beat.

    they havent lost at the bridge in almost 5 years and if we are to end that run then it has to be a very disciplined game we play. the last 3 games have not been disciplined. leaking goals like the titanic.

    if we keep her steady at the back, mascherano needs to do a job on deco and then i think we can stiffle chelsea. but without torres the only way i can see us scoring is from set pieces.

  • Comment number 13.

    MY BET IS THAT THE GAME WILL BE A DRAW,THEN HULL WILL BEAT CHELSEA ON WEDS NITE AND GO TOP OF THE LEAGUE!!

  • Comment number 14.

    vjazz906

    'if we keep her steady at the back, mascherano needs to do a job on deco and then i think we can stiffle chelsea. but without torres the only way i can see us scoring is from set pieces.'
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    Mascherano tying up Deco is perhaps not as key as all that.

    Deco hasn't played in our recent league wins (and excellent performances) and Lampard has been the man making things tick.

    However, if you are right, then likewise Mikel will need to keep a good eye on Gerrard.

  • Comment number 15.

    The title will not be decided at this game.

    It will however have a huge impact psychologically on the winner.
    For Chelsea to win, it will be a confirmation that Liverpool are not at their level.
    For Liverpool to win, it will be a self belief that we can win the title, especially with Arsenal yet to travel to stamford bridge and Man U getting a draw.



  • Comment number 16.

    When considering the finance raised from player sales; Rafa's transfer budget for the summer was around 15 mil.

    When looking at the sums of money Man Utd, Chelsea, Sunderland and Spurs had available. I don't think anyone can go on about Rafa having loads of money to spend; it simply isn't true.

  • Comment number 17.

    AND I WOULDNT HAVE SAID LIVERPOOL OUTPLAYED MAN U AT ANFIELD,IT WAS AN OFF DAY FOR UNITED. WE EVEN SCORED FOR THEM

  • Comment number 18.

    The fact is all the teams that have been beaten after taking the lead, only Manchester United stand out as a good result, the rest are teams that Liverpool should be beating, and frankly the way the season has progressed it's probably fair to say they caught United on a bad day and they still needed a comedy own goal to win it. They were awful against Villa and Stoke.

    The worry is that away to a big team that is in form (ie Chelsea) if you let them go ahead especially if you let them go ahead by 2, in all likelyhood they will stay ahead, and given the rate that Liverpool have been conceding goals you can't see them keeping Chelsea out.

    It'll still be either Chelsea or United as champions at the end of the season. I'd bet my mortgage on that.

  • Comment number 19.

    Being a Chelsea fan, I have always been pleased with whatever points we get out of Liverpool 'cos we seem to have more trouble beating them than we do beating Man U. I believe it will be a 0-0 draw and both sides will be happy. I don't think Sunday will prove anything and a loss either way, won't either.

    The standard has been set over the last couple of seasons, it is consistent winning that will bring the title home (to Chelsea) and Liverpool / Arsenal's problem tends to be they draw too often. That is the tactical mistake that Benitez keeps making, going away from home and getting a draw. Has he learnt that lesson?

  • Comment number 20.

    Chelsea are THE team to beat if we want to even contend for the title - even if we won the PL, I would be upset if that didn't involve beating them at least once.

    Anyone who is not a Chelsea fan is desperate to see this fantastic home record stopped in it's tracks, but it will be very difficult to achieve - but what an achievement it would be!

    They are rock solid, and have improved under Scolari even more so. Rightly so people go on about Gerrard and Torres, but there are players that, on the day, can produce some excellent displays.

    Predicting the result like Lawro is as good a guess as anyone, that's all it is. I would love us to win, but even with our best XI it will not be easy.

    It's these games I'm worried sick who Rafa will pick for kick-off...

  • Comment number 21.

    It'll be an interesting match - I hope Rafa sets out with the aim to win (and a win is certainly possible), but being pragmatic, a draw would be an acceptable result.

  • Comment number 22.

    Sundays result won't win or lose the title. For example, Chelsea beat Utd there last season and Utd beat Chelsea at Old Trafford. I suspect this will be the same with Liverpool/Chelsea and also when we play Utd at Old Trafford.

    It's the results against those outside the top 4 which let us down last season (11 points, dropped at home vs Wigan, Birmingham, Villa, away at Birmingham.. etc).. And we have seen already this season (Stoke aside) that we may have addressed this issue.

    Of course i'd love a draw or a win on Sunday, a draw more likely of course, but a defeat would certainly not be the end of any title challenge.

  • Comment number 23.

    if Liverpool played men utd 3 weeks later than we would have had gerrard and torres fit and in good form and would have routed Man utd

  • Comment number 24.

    "Bring the title home (to Chelsea)" Its home is either Manchester (premier league anyway) or Liverpool (18 titles) it certainly isn't the Bridge. We just loaned it out to u for a couple of yrs! ;o)

    This game won't be the crunch game for Liverpool that some are making out. It'll be games they should win, that they don't that will hinder them.

    I'm just glad we've got Anfield and the Bridge outta the way. Roll on the returns at Old Trafford!

  • Comment number 25.

    Champs69

    Gerrard hasn't done anything against United for about 5 yrs so what makes you think it was have caused a routing?? And Torres was in Rio's pocket last season....

  • Comment number 26.

    Lets face it, the title will be between Arsenal and Chelsea this season. Both have top class players in all positions and great managers.

  • Comment number 27.

    ihatenorwich,

    behave! Arsenal have already lost twice and haven't played anyone decent yet!

    It'll be between United and Chelsea as per with Liverpool making them both sweat closely behind. Arsenal have slipped up too much already!

  • Comment number 28.

    Word is that Torres is definitely out. A big blow - at the back of my mind I had visions of Benitez pulling a fast one and at least having him on the bench.

    Sadly, risk a hamstring injury too soon and it becomes weeks rather than days.

    Chelsea, no matter how good they are defensively, will be relieved.

    With Robbie Keane also a doubt, where do Liverpool fans think they can cause problems for Chelsea?

  • Comment number 29.

    I cant believe there are so many people on here that think if Liverpool lose this weekend that proves they have no title credentials? If they lose they are three points off the top and will have one of their toughest games out of the way? Chelsea will have to come to Anfield during the second half of the season. Its only one game.

  • Comment number 30.

    It's funny, first ManU was our 'defining game', then Stoke, then Everton, then City followed by Wigan. Now it's Chelsea.

    It's only October! This game has very little bearing on Liverpool (or Chelsea's) title aspirations. Surely, Phil, you can come up with a better topic than this?

    Traditionally Liverpool have been strong in the second half of the season under Rafa but have lacked the ability to 'win dirty' as Man Utd have done during the early months. This has left us too far behind by Xmas to be able to catch up. This season we have managed to stay with the other big teams and we're still not out of second gear. This has been a characteristic of Man Utd and Chelsea for the last several years and if we can emulate their Premiership record, it bodes well.

    If Liverpool lose I'll be gutted, but in no way can we 'deliver a defining verdict' based on this game so early in the season.

    Chelsea are in outstanding form and have quality all over the field. They are playing at home where they haven't been beaten in years. Personally, I believe this one will be the usual cagey affair and both teams would accept a draw.

    I'd be ecstatic with a win, happy with a draw and would accept losing as long as we pick up in our next games and go on to make a strong challenge.

    Chelsea games have always been very tight with just the odd goal determining the outcome and very little to determine which team was the better. This one will probably be the same. Neither team will panic should they lose. Also neither team will be guaranteed the title should they win.

  • Comment number 31.

    As said above though a win for either will be a shot in the arm mentally it's a long road to the title yet. For chelsea they have consistently put the run of the mill fixtures to bed over the season and previously Liverpool have not always done this.

    Given there recent energy sapping comeback wins Liverpool have to move up to another gear to stay where they are currently. A hard call I think but not impossible. Sunday? 2-1 to Chelsea is most likely Stamford Bridge has not been a happy ground for Liverpool over the years.

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm not sure people think if Liverpool lose they will have no title credentials.

    My take on it is that if they win, or draw giving Chelsea a real run for their money, then this will demonstrate they have serious title credentials.

    There is a subtle difference there...I think!

  • Comment number 33.

    I honestly believe Liverpool have the best chance of anyone of breaking Chelseas home record.

    Even when we went 1-0 there a few weeks back i just knew, unless we got a second, we wouldn't win. Liverpool under Benitez have shown in the past they can defend when their lives depend on it whereas United, altho havin a decent defence, are best on the offense.

  • Comment number 34.

    The only time Liverpool have ever won a Premier League game at Stamford Bridge was in 2004, 1 - 0. The goal scorer was Bruno Cheyrou, lets get "The New Zidane" back if Torres and Keane are out!

  • Comment number 35.

    Unlike the simpering giggling journalists who blushed through the special one's press conferences, football fans are in the privileged position of judging a football coach by a single criteria, his coaching ability. Most of Mourinho's best performers were signed by the time he arrived at the club, Lampard, Terry, Robben, Cech. He signed a fair few average Portuguese who have either left or can't get in Chelsea's starting XI, Carvalho being the obvious exception. A bargain at only about 20 million. Mourinho spent vast amounts of money, even after Ranieri had invested the first batch of Abramovich's astonishing wealth very wisely anyway and Jose produced a side which played dull, functional football. They won two titles when United were in transition and the moment they got sorted Mourinho started to lose, picked his ball up and went home.

    If you invest as much as Mourinho was allowed to then you are almost guaranteed success. Portsmouth's former director of football, Avram Grant, largely accepted as being a pretty substandard coach managed to not only propel Chelsea very very close to the title, closer than Mourinho managed the season before, but also managed to combine it with being a single kick away from European cup glory. The Mourinho myth has been dispelled over the last two years in my opinion and I think it will continue to be in Italy and in Europe with his time at Inter.

    He's a decent coach tactically who creates a good team spirit amongst his players but his teams play dour, dull football, cheat and are bad losers. I have very little love for Chelsea but I enjoy watching them this season and have total respect for the way they play. The accusation the reason people were largely against Chelsea was because they were winning is ludicrous. Of course people hate winners, they hated my team, Liverpool, they hated United and they hated Chelsea too, Liverpool in the 70s and 80s were respected, people enjoyed watching those sides play (it's a pity the current side isn't such a joy to watch - pass and stop!), United, as much as I am loathed to admit it, have played excellent football over the years. I wouldn't go as far to say I enjoy watching them, but I respect the team in a sporting sense. Chelsea have begun to earn the respect of neutrals and that will remain even with the Russians wealth and even with any success they have.

    As for the game, 0-2 Redmen Kuyt, Keane.

  • Comment number 36.

    I think the comments about Agger are a little bit harsh having watched all of the recent liverpool games....Arbeloa however has been coming inside and making the defence narrow and this I think has been causing Carra a headache not Agger. Also on Wednesday night pass of the night was by Agger which almost led to us scoring. I think the game will be very tight on Sunday and I think Chelsea will have a bit of a surprise as they have played relatively easy opposition in the premiership so far and have only managed to score 1 in a couple of games in the CL. Will be very interesting to watch the game but I would obviously be happy with a draw if Liverpool can't get the victory. I don't think however that if Liverpool did score first they will close down and try and hold on for a 1-0 victory as our whole team defending this season has not been quite as good as last year.

  • Comment number 37.

    I'm afraid you liverpool fans will be dissapointed yet again this season. Yes, you may well have had a good start but deep down, everyone nows you STILL aren't as good as Chelsea, Arsenal and Man U. When all four of those teams are on top of their game, Liverpool are still a long way off the kind of performances the other 3 are capable of producing.

    Apart from Gerrard, Torres, Carragher and Mascherano, you still don't have any other truely world class palyers, not Keane, not Kuyt, not Alonso, not Babel or any of the others.

    Also in relation to Dave Walnut, Rafa has spent more money than Ferguson and Wenger in terms of the money he has recouped and paid! That is a fact and not an opinion!

  • Comment number 38.

    By reading my comment accurately you will realise I was discussing this summer and had not included Wenger in the debate as it is well known how little he spends.

    Did Rafa spend more than Ferguson in the summer? I think not.

  • Comment number 39.

    Post 35 is barely believable. If the media had brushed aside the feats of a coach who brought Chelsea their first title in 50 years, and then retained it, we would be rightly pilloried.

    Mourinho is an acquired taste (and plenty found it sour I admit) but let's not have people questioning his record.

    And he did not have a huge budget when he won the Champions League with Porto.

  • Comment number 40.

    DaveWalnut I can see the point you're trying to make about Benitez but he's rotating far less this season. Look how he took key players off on Wednesday against Athletico Madrid, he wants the PL this season no doubt.

    Having said that and it hurts me to say as a liverpool fan Chelski look very good and a draw will be an excellent result for us on Sunday.

    To all the other doubters Liverpool have the best record of any of the big four since last March loseing only one game. The CL semi against you guessed it Chelski. They are on a great run and will be in there till the end, don't underestimate Benitez

  • Comment number 41.

    well done Phil - an inbiased article, usually i hate the drivel you write

  • Comment number 42.

    "My take on it is that if they win, or draw giving Chelsea a real run for their money, then this will demonstrate they have serious title credentials."

    Liverpool over the last few years have pretty much always given Chelsea a run for their money and not deserved to lose the game. It had very little bearing on Liverpool's title credentials.

    As so many have already mentioned, it has been the lesser games, where Liverpool have been expected to win but have drawn, that have cost us any chance for the title. This includes games like Man City and Wigan. It has been our lack of cutting edge against weaker opposition and lack of belief when we are at 0-0 to go on and win.

    None of the big four will see the games against each other as crucial to the title. It is the ability of Man Utd and Chelsea to go and beat Wigan or Sunderland on a cold Saturday lunchtime that has ensured they stay on top.

  • Comment number 43.

    I don't think that how much they have spent matters. I think for Liverpool to sustain a title push Benitez has to abandon his cautious nature (something Mourinho should have done more also) as he sets up his teams at Old trafford,Stamford Bridge, the Emirates not to lose rather than to try and win other than perhaps nicking a goal and stinking the place out. At the moment they are scraping games and last season Chelsea did this but it eventually caught up with them and backfired.

  • Comment number 44.

    3. At 12:41pm on 24 Oct 2008, MrBlueBurns wrote:

    Phil

    I think you've made the point that Liverpool keep going for the full 90 minutes but, and maybe crucially, their opponents have not always had 11 men for 90 minutes.
    --------------------------------------------------
    My point exactly!!!

    But I haven't heard us united supporters crying foul or "Ref.s favour Looserpool".

    We leave that to deluded ppl.

  • Comment number 45.

    nellybarnstormer

    Clearly Rafa hasn't rotated much yet, but the fact is that, by his standards, he hasn't had to. How many League Cup games have Liverpool played? How many FA Cup?

    Rafa doesn't know how to manage the squad in the same way Wenger does for these lesser competitions. That will be the downfall of Liverpool, the squad isn't strong enough throughout to compete on four fronts; and Rafa refuses to not compete on all four fronts as Wenger does.

  • Comment number 46.

    Liverpool may have given Chelsea a run for their money at Stamford Bridge - but still have a record of one win in 16 Premier League games with only six goals.

    I believe the manner of Liverpool's performance on Sunday will say a lot about how much they have progressed this season.

    Those who think otherwise - if they won would that not make you believe they have a better chance of winning the title than for many years?

  • Comment number 47.

    DominicLove - "Rafa has spent more money than Ferguson and Wenger in terms of the money he has recouped and paid! That is a fact and not an opinion!"

    What utter drivel. Rafa has recouped huge sums and has started from a weaker position than either of those managers by inheriting a waning team full of mediocrity. As a non Liverpool fan you clearly have no idea how much we have spent and, more importantly, how much we have recouped. Don't base your assumptions on the fact we signed Torres for £23ish million sa couple of years ago. That summer we were touted as the big spenders. Man Utd the same summer spent over £50 million on Nani, Anderson and Hargreaves. They have still to pay out for Tevez.

    Wengers measly reputation stems mostly from the Anelka thing years ago, but he too has spent huge sums over the years and not always recouped the costs.

    All the big four spend big. Man Utd and Chelsea more than anyone else.

  • Comment number 48.

    I think that all us liverpool fans are very cautious and the younger ones won't remember liverpools last title. We won't think we can win it until we actually have done it!! :) If we win lose or draw against Chelsea it will just be part of the journey in a very long season.

    On how Arsenal are going to challenge for the title well their team has hardly changed since we got 2 draws and knocked them out of the Champions League last season and our squad has actually improved. You don't find many Arsenal fans talking about how they are going to win the title either.....proably with good reason. They deserved to lose at Hull and I don't see any reason for this not happening again in the premiership this season. Stoke was our blip so far but we had about 20 shots in that game. Man City by rights should have beaten us last weekend but a combination of our determination and there inability to close the game down when they were ahead let us back in. If we play every game like this one I am positive we can acheive something.

    If we get some luck (and some old trafford refereeing) we could do very well this season indeed but we don't go counting chickens in the kop.:)

  • Comment number 49.

    Liverpool give Chelsea a run for their money as they are able to pump themselves up against the better teams (but not at old trafford for some reason). It's the games against the other teams where things don't quite to plan but if you look at their squad there is just something missing (perhaps a real quality right winger and full back) and Benitez has in the past held on to aging /inconsistant players a bit too long.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think it is about time that the unbeaten home run at Stamford comes to an end.

    Liverpool were the last team to beat them on their own ground, and it should be them that ends the run.

    Liverpool have seemed to have shown that unbeatable 'never say die' attitude that they inherited in Istanbul in 2005, but they do have to show that they don't have to rely on comebacks to win... especially when they have the squad to do so.

  • Comment number 51.

    DaveWalnut - "the squad isn't strong enough throughout to compete on four fronts"

    Good, because, let's face it, no one takes the league cup seriously anyway.

  • Comment number 52.

    actually it was Arsenal that last won at stamford bridge. At least in the past couple of season Liverpool have made a game of it prior to that it was a gimme that they would freeze at chelsea. even when we were rubbish in the late 70s-mid 90s we normally won this fixture.

  • Comment number 53.

    Aren't games between these two complete borefests usually? I don't see that changing on Sunday. Without Torres and possibly Keane I don't see Liverpool poaching a goal at the bridge, so they'll just defend it out, as I'm sure Rafa's selection will bear out. Another vintage nil all, I reckon.

  • Comment number 54.

    To answer your question Phil, Liverpool will cause problems for Chelsea through Gerrard. With Makelele put out to stud, Chelsea will struggle to deal with the way Gerrard plays. Mikel isn't quite the player Makelele was and will struggle in that hole in front of the back 4. All Liverpool need is a big burly Target man to act as a foil -- Whats Heskey doing nowadays?

  • Comment number 55.

    "Outplayed Man Utd at Anfield"??

    You mean – were going nowhere for 35 mins before a freak own goal got them back into the game

  • Comment number 56.

    jamminben13 wrote:

    To answer your question Phil, Liverpool will cause problems for Chelsea through Gerrard. With Makelele put out to stud, Chelsea will struggle to deal with the way Gerrard plays. Mikel isn't quite the player Makelele was and will struggle in that hole in front of the back 4. All Liverpool need is a big burly Target man to act as a foil -- Whats Heskey doing nowadays?
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    I think I speak for many Chelsea fans when I say Mikel has very much impressed this season. His performances and consistency are excellent.

    I'm not saying he is Makelele but he is big, strong and quick and his tackling has been much, much improved.

    I agree it is a key area though.

  • Comment number 57.

    Why do the BBC, and this inane 'blogger' in particular, focus only on small clubs like Chelsea and current also-rans like England and Liverpool? The difference between Chelsea and Liverpool and Manchester United is that the first two talk about winning all the time whereas Manchester United actually win. Between them Liverpool and Chelsea have won one FA Cup and one League Cup in the last two seasons. 0-0 on Sunday, with Gerrard to give a masterclass in his zealous use of the optimistic 'Hollywood' ball.

  • Comment number 58.

    At the end of the day, the majority of you have us beaten. Fair enough, everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But there would be no point in playing the game if everyone is assuming Chelsea will win or draw.

    In regards to the title, it's anyone's game at this point. I don't understand why the title is won in one game earlier and earlier every season. It's like advent calendars and easter eggs getting into Asda earlier and earlier every year. it's just plain annoying.

    Everyone battering on about Gerrard and Torres about being our match winners is true. But the last winner for Liverpool in the league at the bridge...Bruno Cheyrou. And I'm sure Liverpool fans don't need a reminder of how potent a finisher John O'shea or Mikel Silvestre are... My point being that in these types of games, any one of the players can win the game. It's why we watch the game in the first place.

    I hope to God we win. I'm not bothered whether it's a tight 1-0 or an end to end goal fest. But I'm gonna go for Liverpool 2-1 with someone like Andrea Dossena scoring the winner for Liverpool.

  • Comment number 59.

    DaveWalnut

    In previous seasons Rafa has set his stall out to win the CL mainly cos he didn't feel he had a good enough team to compete well enough for a season to win the PL.
    This season I reckon he wants the PL first then the CL, his rotation will come in the lesser cups cos I don't think he has ever really been that bothered with them.

    Barring a disaster we are as good as qualified for the knockout stages of the CL so as long as everyone stays fit rotation will be limited until the new year, if were still in contention after Christmas there's no way he will mess with the team.

  • Comment number 60.

    Last season this corresponding fixture was the worst game of premiership football I have ever seen. Hopefully, it will be better on Sunday, but I think Mark Lawrenson has called it right, Benitez will set Liverpool up to cope well with Chelsea's full backs, and without the threat of Drogba, I think Chelsea will struggle to score, so I feel another bore draw, not fully answering the question on Liverpool's title credentials, but unfortunately allowing United to close the gap.

  • Comment number 61.

    I honestly cant see anything but a Chelsea win because Liverpool are conceding too many goals. If you look at the teams who win the league its quite simple, they defend brillianty (Man U and Chelsea as winners over the last 4 yrs) and score goals for fun!
    Arsenal were also brilliant the last time they won the league.
    Granted Chelsea didnt play free flowing fooyball under Mourinho but they mugged so many teams on the break and from corners/set pieces that their goal tally was still high and they never gave anything away at the back!
    Now look at this season. Chelsea have blended Mourinhos defence with Scolaris attack and look awesome.
    United havent conceded in 5 games and are ominously returning to their old selves. Unfortunately Arsenal are really missing Hleb and Flamini (who was fantastic last season which really let Fabregas shine) and will come up short again.
    My point is that Liverpool have never scored as many goals as the other three. Their success has been based primarily on sound defence but their defence is all over the place this season.
    Liverpool fans will point to the run of victories in the league as if evidence of goals, and if these had been secured 'convincingly' with sound defence i would find it hard to discount their title challenge but the facts at the moment are saying their defence is simply not good enough.
    'IF' their defence can get it together to match Ferdinand/Vidic/Evra and Terry/Cole/Bosingwa (all among the very BEST defenders in the world) and Keane Gerrard Torres knock in the goals every week they may well finish the season above europes current two best teams (Chelsea and Utd) but this is a really big if.
    Prediction: United and Chelsea to slug it out for top spot in a fantastic down to the wire finish. Liverpool and Arsenal to impress but just fall short of matching two of the best teams I've ever seen!

  • Comment number 62.

    I love this "if liverpool win won't they have a better chance of winning the title than in previous season"

    Considering they have had NO CHANCE of winning the premiership (ever), then yes, winning at stamford bridge would give them a small chance.

    Liverpool always do well until around Christmas, then they crumble. Arsenal showed last season that a great start is one thing, but keeping that going throughout jan->march is something else. More often than not, the team top at Christmas doesn't win the league - and I've always maintained, it is better to be chasing (and only 2 or 3 points behind) come Christmas, than to be chased - then you have the momentum to go and an win it.

  • Comment number 63.

    Torres was rested twice (yes, that's right people, 2 times) last season when he was fit and whilst our season was still ongoing (ie, when we were either chasing the title or securing CL qualification).

    This myth that Rafa dropped Torres every other game last season and that his continued presence in the team this season is the reason we're doing well is highly, highly annoying.

  • Comment number 64.

    Sorry Phil much as I like you blog for you to say that Chelsea are "a side playing wonderfully fluent attacking football" is folly... Spurs (bottom of league) were unlucky not to beat them... Man Utd played them off the park first half and Chelsea didn't play flowing football to get back in it either... A couple of decent results, performances even, against Villa and Boro is nothing to write home about!.. Cast your mind back to Jose Mourinho's first season when Chelsea crushed teams home and away playing great football at the same time while setting the points record in the Premier League... Granted Chelsea did become more defensive as the seasons went on but who's to say Big Phil won't go the same way?.. I say this as a through and through Liverpool fan also... As for this Sunday's match I think its got draw written all over it

  • Comment number 65.

    ginger_gooner

    You should stay quiet since your lot capitulated spectacularly as well.

    We went through our slump mid season, you went through yours a bit later.

    Congratulations.

  • Comment number 66.

    Apart from repeating the "rotation myth" yet again (Torres was rested for less competitive matches than Rooney last season, and those decisions cost United more points than Liverpool, so why is Rafa a "tinkerer" while Ferguson makes "tactical selections"?) there's something else that hasn't been mentioned.

    Last season Liverpool beat Arsenal without Torres. This year we've already beaten Utd without him.

    Can Liverpool complete the set?
    I don't honestly know, but one thing about Liverpool so far this year, you can never count them out of it.

    Chelsea could also be missing some key players, Drogba's presence is vital to them.

    Anelka never signed for Liverpool because he didn't seem to know the off-side rule, that hasn't changed.

  • Comment number 67.

    Ok stuff, this. Bit more straightforward than many here seem to think,though.I agree that a draw is the most likely result.This outcome benefits Man Utd,more than any other team. With home games against L'pool and Chelsea to come at the 'business' end of the season,it's hard not to see the Premier League trophy staying exactly where it is.May seem early to say this but it's vital that one team or the other win this game,get 3 points and keep the gap open at the top.Otherwise all you L'Pool and Chelsea fans could see this as being the weekend when Utd caught up..despite not beating either of these 2 teams! Funny how it works,isn't it?

  • Comment number 68.

    Liverpool facing test of strength, AGAIN!!
    How many times do we need these tests of strenght? We have beaten Man U, we haven't lost a game this season. What more do people want? If other teams come back and win it's down to thier determination not to give up. However if it's Liverpool it's luck!

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    Liverpool are simply not good, or consistent enough to win the league. They have got out of jail in recent weeks when opposition red cards have allowed them back into games they had no right to win. Plaudits to them for continuing to fight however. Also, they are dependant on Gerrard and Torres- giev them Chelsea's injury worries and the results will fall away. Like Arsenal last year, they're squad will fall away as it's not strong enough.

    With regard to Sunday, I will be very suprised if Liverpool do anything but 'park the bus' in front of the goal. In the past, they have never been adventurous beyong trying to sneak 1-0 wins through solid defenisve displays at S Bridge. I hope they get what they deserve- nothing- as I hope any side that comes solely looking for a draw away from home gets.

    Come on Liverpool, if you really think you can do it this year, prove it to us by outplaying a desperately weakened Chelsea side at the Bridge.

  • Comment number 71.

    Phil,

    So if Liverpool have an off day and get beaten, that will define how much Liverpool have progressed will it? Dear me! You write some bum articles, does that define your future career as a journo?

    In addition, why do the media suck up to Mourinho? You all say the same thing, "He was a breath of fresh air." It's like you were all afraid to think for yourselves. He wasn't a breath of fresh air, yes he was something different from Wenger/SAF but he was obnoxious and arrogant! And, he managed the biggest team of divers ever, Porto!

  • Comment number 72.

    seandy81

    Folly? Perhaps you should look at Chelsea's performances this season. I think Phil is right on this point.

    dafonk

    Chelsea have a pretty good record at Old Trafford one way or another. Even if Sunday is a draw and Man U catch up slightly, they are both capable of getting a result (draw or win) at Old Trafford.

  • Comment number 73.

    As has been the case for the past few seasons, Chelsea will struggle against the Reds. You can't judge teams until they play against their peers, and Chelsea has struggled against the pool, no question. Liverpool has beaten Man U already and will beat Chelsea away this weekend. Title credentials? Nuff said

  • Comment number 74.

    It is a forgone conclusion: Benitez will flood the midfield to prevent Chelsea from playing football because he knows that if his side try and play: Chelsea will pick them apart, especially considering the injury of Torres and several others

  • Comment number 75.

    firstly, i am most definately in with the cynics - Liverpool either have to start winning comfortably or they will stop rescuing the desperate points they've 'stolen' up to now. i think it will be the latter, until the pressure is off around March time as usual.

    but even if it is the former, they still don't have enough to compete with Chelsea, and especially United imo.

    i would quite like to see them hold (or even beat) Chelsea this weekend. then again, i'd be more than happy for Chelsea to completely dismantle them physically and psychologically just as United did at Old Trafford last season.

    i only wish it was United playing Liverpool this weekend.

  • Comment number 76.

    If Liverpool can get in front then the defence have the capabilities to hold off Chelsea. Although holding out for a 1-0 will be a tough task.

    I think a key player could be Ryan Babel who seems to play well in the big games. The Gerrard and Keane combination showed signs of promise in midweek.

    Chelsea do look very strong and the likely result will be a draw. Liverpool need to shackle Lampard to get anything out of the game. Win, lose or draw this will define nothing for either team. If somehow Liverpool could win then the confidence boost would be massive.

  • Comment number 77.

    "Middlesbrough. Manchester United. Marseille. Manchester City. Wigan Athletic. All teams beaten despite taking the lead."

    Phil, do you think that Liverpool can push for the title if they have to continuously come from behind to beat opponents? I'm sure this will take it's toll after a while.

    Compare this to Chelsea who seem to be making light work of most opponents they face.

    Do you think Liverpool need to cut this out of their game if they are to seriously push for the title?

  • Comment number 78.

    Let me ask the question again of those Liverpool fans who do not believe this game will be a good indicator of their title ambitions.

    If Liverpool win, will you be more optimistic about their title chances than you were before?

    I bet you will be.

  • Comment number 79.

    GyroRob If you read my previous post you will see we have been the most consistent team since March.

    And as for ginger_gooner Liverpool are always better after Christmas the annoying thing is we are usually too far behind by then, this season its Arsenal who will be too far behind.

  • Comment number 80.

    re:comment 69 thats actually quite funny considering it comes from an everton supporter. Shame that someone is going to have it moderated off the board. Needless to say if something is scabbed over it doesn't excrete anything..basic clotting and skin repair principles.

  • Comment number 81.

    This game isn't vital - a win would be fantastic for liverpool, but any outcome at the bridge is nothing to be ashamed of - it's probably the toughest test you'll face this season

    If Liverpool are stronger than previous years and they usually draw with Chelsea then this should be a banker for a stalemate - and yes it means united get a look in, but it's too early to say it's that beneficial - you don't get your points from the other big 3, you get them from the boltons, boros and wigans

    Liverpool may well carry on winning after this, but I feel that Chelsea have the far superior squad and at the end of the season we'll be seeing the trophy back at the bridge

  • Comment number 82.

    The match between L'pool and Chelsea would probably end up a draw as both managers would play to avoid defeat. Scolari can play attacking football but he is also a very pragmatic coach who knows how to 'do' defence (unlike Wenger).

    On Mourinho - yes he is an acquired taste for people like McNulty for whom football is war not art, for whom winning is everything no matter how it comes about. I strongly dislike Mourinho's tactics (I make no apologies) from Porto to Inter-Milan.

    I want to be pleasantly entertained when I watch football so I'd watch Arsenal, occassionally ManU and or Aston Villa. I don't watch Liverpool, ignored Chelsea under Mourinho though Scolari is now bringing me back to the fold.

    Life is not about winning at all cost...

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 84.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 85.

    It's too early to say that this game is the title decider, but regardless of who you support it is a tad important.

    Without Torres, yes, Liverpool lose something up front, it doesn't take a genius to work that one out, but they still have the quality to create chances. I do fear, however, we will sit back and hold for the draw. GyroRob is right, Liverpool have to prove they can outplay top sides. Although I'd hardly call the Chelsea side desperately weakened.

    With regards to the title challenge, without injuries we have a sniff of a chance, but seriously, we don't have the quality to match the depth of Man U and Chelsea. I think 3rd is the best we can get this year. I think someone posted earlier that challenging for the title would be an improvment we would be happy with.

    Prediction for the game on Sunday; 1-0 Chelsea.

  • Comment number 86.

    In answer to Cov 1985 - I agree with you that Liverpool cannot keep coming from behind to win games all season. It wouldn't happen every time for a start.

    What I do think is that it shows a real level of self-belief, and there have been plenty of occasions in the last few season when they have drawn games like those they won against Middlesbrough and Wigan in particular.

    As for Chelsea, they have been the outstanding team in the Premier League so far this season, but Liverpool will be a big test for them also.

  • Comment number 87.

    McNulty, our performances against the other top 4 aren't what worried me last season (we deserved 4 points at the very least off Chelsea, for instance), it was the fact that we couldn't grind out results against lesser teams and we were a bit mentally fragile, two things that have looked better this season.

    Once again, I'd like to point out that the Torres being dropped myth is complete horse crap, because he was only rested twice before our season became a formality.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    No i didn't read you comment completely - it got boring.

    There isn't any point in only talking about the deals he did this summer. The squad he has built was done so over the last 3/4 years, and apart from the signing of Keane, he was pretty inactive this summer.

    Benitez has wasted a lot of cash on some pretty average players and only judging it from a 'this summer' point of view is hiding behind the facts.

  • Comment number 90.

    regaleverton666
    Go back to school child!

  • Comment number 91.

    BBC moderation team please remove regaleverton666 he obviously fancies Steven Gerrard but I can reliably inform him that he is happily married with children

  • Comment number 92.

    If Chelsea score first, Chelsea will win. No comeback this time.

    If Liverpool scores first, then its likely to be a draw.

    The chance of a Liverpool win? Very slim but those uncertainties are what makes the game so appealing!

  • Comment number 93.

    Phil

    You never did respond to the point I made in post #3.

    How many of Liverpool's wins have come against teams with 11 men on the pitch for the entire match?

    Thanks

  • Comment number 94.

    Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!! Come on Everton!!!

  • Comment number 95.

    firstly, i am most definately in with the cynics - Liverpool either have to start winning comfortably or they will stop rescuing the desperate points they've 'stolen' up to now. i think it will be the latter, until the pressure is off around March time as usual.
    ------------------------------------------
    What a crock or garbage!

    At the games were you? Apart from Boro, all the wins were deserved.

    ----------------------------
    Let me ask the question again of those Liverpool fans who do not believe this game will be a good indicator of their title ambitions.

    If Liverpool win, will you be more optimistic about their title chances than you were before?

    I bet you will be.

    ---------------------------------
    Phil,

    Most sensible-minded Liverpool fans will realise even if we win there's a long way to go and a lot can go wrong. just like if we lose, things can quickly get back on track!

  • Comment number 96.

    its suprising that all those with "Gerrard" or "scouser" or some other liverpool related name think that Liverpool have a chance this weekend and this year!

    Everyone else thinks they'll be negative and won't be strong enough to win.

    There's nothing like good old unbiased, logical, well-reasoned opinion ;)

    ps. and before somone has a go I know its every supporters right to do so. It's just funny to read the contrasts as an outsider lol!

  • Comment number 97.

    ps happy red, i'm sure that if you look at the stats you will see that Benitez has spent more than Fergie and the fact that you're comparing his spending to Wenger is laughable!

    Also, i think you will find when he walked in Liverpool were in pretty good condition. They had not too long before won the UEFA cup, the FA cup and the league cup in the same season, as well as finishing 2nd in the league!

    I may not be a Liverpool fan but i clearly know more about the club than you mate

  • Comment number 98.

    Liverpool have won six league games this season. The opposition has had a man sent off in four of them.

  • Comment number 99.

    regaleverton666 please read this

    EVERTON 0 - 2 LIVERPOOL

    now go and enjoy your relegation battle little boy

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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