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Chelsea & Liverpool under scrutiny

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Phil McNulty | 10:23 UK time, Thursday, 1 October 2009

Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez have history. From Istanbul in 2005 to Athens two years later - two Champions League finals between AC Milan and Liverpool with honours even.

Chelsea and Liverpool's players will also have something in common at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, other than the annual pursuit of Manchester United at the Premier League summit.

John Terry and Steven Gerrard will lead out two sets of players with the angry words of their respective managers still ringing in their ears after an uncomfortable week at home and abroad.

Carlo Ancelotti on the touchlineAncelotti was unhappy with Chelsea's display in Nicosia

Ancelotti's permanently raised left eyebrow hints at a laconic sense of humour, but both were heading skywards in alarm as the Italian lambasted Chelsea for their performance in the Champions League win against Apoel Nicosia in Cyprus.

It came hard on the heels of defeat at Wigan, an appalling display that drew savage criticism and a public dressing down for the players from their leaderTerry.

Benitez meted out similar treatment to Liverpool after a dreadful night in Florence against Fiorentina. Fabio Aurelio, a long-time employee of Benitez both at Valencia and Liverpool, admitted he had never seen him so angry as he was at the interval during the 2-0 defeat.

Benitez rated it right down there with the worst preformances of his Liverpool reign, and was so unsettled by the experience that rage replaced the icy reserve with which he usually treats his charges.

So when Ancelotti and Benitez meet in domestic combat for the first time, both Chelsea and Liverpool will be under intense scrutiny. Weaknesses and strengths will be examined in even finer detail.

Manchester United may currently head the table, but Chelsea and Liverpool have serious designs about unseating Sir Alex Ferguson's champions and Sunday will inevitably used as evidence to either press or dismiss their aspirations.

For Chelsea, there is an echo of last October's meeting with Liverpool when Xabi Alonso's deflected goal ended an unbeaten Premier League run stretching back 86 games.

Then, as now, Chelsea had made an promising start under a new manager. For Ancelotti read Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was winning plaudits for his smooth transition at Stamford Bridge.

How wrong we were. Liverpool's win exposed the fragile foundations of Scolari's regime, falling around a tactical inflexibility that offered Plan A, and when that went wrong some more Plan A. Benitez struck on the notion that if you stopped Chelsea's full-backs attacking under Scolari you stopped Chelsea - he was correct and Liverpool's win was the beginning of the end for the amiable Big Phil.

Ancelotti is prepared to be more experimental and will want to see swift signs that Chelsea have not been unnerved by the dismal defeat at Wigan, and the uncertainties of Cyprus that saw him as uncomfortable as he has been since arriving in England.

The task has been made harder by Petr Cech's suspension, with likely replacement Hilario barely passing muster as a goalkeeper of Premier League quality. Chelsea's miserly defence looked decidedly vulnerable at Wigan and in Cyprus, and even Hilario's greatest admirers would struggle to regard him as a reassuring presence.

Ancelotti must hope Frank Lampard's uncharacteristic drought of eight goalless games does not continue as the usually prolific midfield man adjusts to the coach's diamond midfield formation. Lampard's strength is arriving late in the box - the danger for Liverpool is that he is too astute and too good a player not to fire eventually.

A convincing Chelsea win will cement Ancelotti's reputation and help banish any lingering fears he might turn out to be another Scolari. The Italian's pedigree suggests otherwise, but victory on Sunday will knock out any dents in confidence after a poor week.

Liverpool will take heart from their performances at Chelsea last season, following up that league victory by almost overturning a 3-1 defecit at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League quarter-final.

Fernando Torres is in the mood to terrorise Chelsea, but Liverpool's switch to a more attacking mindset has exposed worrying weaknesses at the back. For those who tipped Liverpool to win the title this season, myself included, there have to be indications of Benitez finding a balance.

Liverpool striker Fernando TorresLiverpool hope Fernando Torres will be back on top form against Chelsea

The ease with which an unremarkable Fiorentina side threatened to take Liverpool to the cleaners in the first half was undoubtedly the reason for Benitez's burst of anger - but the manager himself has had better nights.

Benitez's European record has him rightly regarded as a master strategist in the Champions League, but his plan of pairing Lucas and Fabio Aurelio in central midfield was ill-conceived.

He may have brushed off criticisms of this baffling selection later, but you would not place large sums on it being repeated at Chelsea if Javier Mascherano is still sidelined with a hamstring injury. The dustbin is the best place for that particular piece of tactical thinking.

Liverpool's central defence has not been a happy place to be when the heat is on this season, with Jamie Carragher's dip in form allowing the collapse of Martin Skrtel's game to slip under the radar.

Skrtel threw his hands up in what was almost a gesture of surrender as he was being given the runaround at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Not great body language, and how Benitez must yearn for the day when Daniel Agger cuts his ties to the treatment room and puts his hand up for selection.

Liverpool have cured the problem of struggling at Anfield against the lesser lights, thrashing Stoke City, Burnley and Hull City, but they have looked ill-at-ease when winning at Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United and slipped against Spurs and Aston Villa.

It will be a serious demonstration of intent if they can win at Chelsea. Didier Drogba, a scourge of Liverpool in the past, was missing when they won at Stamford Bridge last season. He will be present in all his menacing glory on Sunday - and if Carragher and Skrtel defend as they have been when placed under stress then he will be the match-winner.

The same will apply to Torres if Chelsea show the frailty that has marked their last two performances. Two world-class strikers will relish the prospect of feasting on flawed defences.

For the two teams, this game is an early marker for where their league season might be heading. Ancelotti and Benitez only meet when the stakes are high - they do so again on Sunday.

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I see this game being a score draw. With Cech suspended along with Liverpool's shaky defence I can see goals being leaked. As a manc a draw would do me fine, wouldn't even mind if Chelsea won!

  • Comment number 2.

    Will be some interesting battles out there. How well the best two strikers (Torres and Drogba by a country mile mr rooney!) in the premiership fair will be crucial.
    Selection of the teams will be interesting. Chelsea playing two up front with a diamond midfireld and the full backs attacking be too strong for Liverpool or will it leave them with a lack of width and too exposed at the back?
    This game will also show how well equipped these teams are as they have not really faced any big sides as of yet.
    Let the battle commence!

  • Comment number 3.

    I love Liverpool, with all my heart, but we haven't a prayer of winning the title this season. I hope I am proved wrong.

  • Comment number 4.

    RE Post 3 fattevez
    Havent a prayer?
    We have had a shaky start but nonetheless we have scored the most goals in the premiership, just our defence has been awful. And with Benitez at the helm our defending is bound to improve.
    Hope it starts from Sunday and you like many will again see as favourites to win the title!
    (dewsbury!)

  • Comment number 5.

    I really think the reds will be fired up for this. I predict a one-goal victory for liverpool. A third loss will more or less end their title bid, and I think Gerrard and Torres don't intend that to happen. A draw is not catastrophic to either side, but Liverpool need a win more than chelsea.

  • Comment number 6.

    Liverpool should beat Chelsea just the defence is rubbish but as Benitez is manager it will get better

  • Comment number 7.

    Just a couple of things.

    Firstly Liverpool did not "almost overturn a 3-1 defecit" indeed they conceeded more goals in the tie than ever in Europe and lost 7-5 which is not 'almost' at all.
    Secondly,Benitez record in Europe has gotten worse in each of the last 3 culminating in that 7-5 record defeat with the 3-1 home leg itself equaling Liverpools record home defeat.And let's not forget but for some very poor finishing from Liege they wouldn't even have reached the group stages.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hope Liverpool win so it's not a two-horse race. Would need United to lose to Sunderland...at Old Trafford (it could happen!) and we've got a three way tie. Even better, Spurs and City win again and it's a five way tie. Could shape up to be a super exciting season!

  • Comment number 9.

    I am of course hopeful, as a Liverpool fan, that we will be strong enough to overturn Chelsea again at Stamford Bridge, but realistically I think a draw is a very good result. Of course after beating them home and away last season, anything less than a victory looks like a backward step. Thats not realistic, and as it was last year, the title will depend on results against teams outside of the top four.

    Benitez will have looked at himself as much as he looked at his players on Tuesday. His tactical mistake of playing Aurelio and Lucas showed that he had forgotten his own mantra of defensive and passing strength in the centre of midfield. I believe the free-scoring form had tempted him from his usual formation, and he underestimated Fiorentina.

    Phil, you are right about the defense. Its worth remembering that we have two "new" full backs. Benitez has pushed his two full backs forward earlier in the play, and this is causing the centre backs to get a little too far apart on occasion. I dont think Carragher trusts his midfield to cover on the break.

    It takes time to get the partnerships working, and that can also be the reason for Carragher and Skrtel getting a few things wrong. Mascherano needs to be in the team, he makes a huge difference breaking up play in front of the back four. Hopefully he will be ready for the weekend.

  • Comment number 10.

    One interesting thing here is the fact that Petr Cech will be suspended after his sending-off at Wigan. Granted, he isn't the same keeper who set the league alight with his quality but is still more than capable, and although as an Arsenal fan I'm not really in a position to speak, I wonder whether or not Hilario, who should in all likelihood will start the match, will be considered a weak link. Chelsea should have tried to get a solid goalkeeper who will challenge Cech and get him back to where he was before, or at worst could have perhaps convinced Carlo Cudicini to remain at the club for another season tops. Instead Ancelotti ended getting Ross Turnbull of relegated Middlesbrough to compete with Cech and Hilario!

  • Comment number 11.

    As a Manchester United fan, I actually wouldn't mind seeing Liverpool take the points here. Whereas it's always nice to see Liverpool lose, Chelsea are a genuine threat this season.

  • Comment number 12.

    Phil,

    i'm not your biggest fan but a fair article today.
    Chelsea lose and there will be immediate comparisons to last season. Liverpool lose and the media will wipe off our title hopes.

    regarding Aurelio playing mid Tuesday night. it's not a new position to him, but he isn't fit so it was a surprise to see him alongside Lucas. i would have liked to have seen Spearing in there instead.
    hopefully the failed tactic will work for us and Aurelio can go back in the starting 11. Insua is a promising player for the future, even now to be fair, but i think Aurelio offers something more in defence.

    not sure about the Fiorentina comment though. they weren't unremarkable at all. Jovetic looks like a future star. i may be wrong but they haven't conceded at home at this season and won all of them.

    Skrtel i think is a very good defender. he needs to cut out his dirty side though. Vidic is similar. just on the borderline of being legal and occasionally poor play. Skrtel needs a good defender beside him. Carra has been a great player for the club and that should be considered. his form is below par but i don't think for one minute he doesn't have the desire or commitment or has become a bad player overnight. when he gets a bit of confidence back he will be good for a couple more seasons at this level. but as you said Phil, Agger is on his way back and hopefully will get a prolonged run in the side. i'd like to see him in instead of Skrtel at the moment.

    great game on it's way. i fancy a few goals.

  • Comment number 13.

    Benitez struck on the notion that if you stopped Chelsea's full-backs attacking under Scolari you stopped Chelsea - he was correct and Liverpool's win was the beginning of the end for the amiable Big Phil.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    Why do you insist on ruining a good piece with over the top hyperbole.
    A deflected goal was the difference between the usual Pool's tactics of getting a draw in that game. Year before that Pool went with same strategy and got the desired result ( a draw). They bunkered in and got a point. Only BBC writers would turn a fortunate deflection into a tactical masterpiece game plan.

    Keep it simple! Rafa went with usual plan of playing a cautious defneseive game to take apoint, and if opportunity was to to come then take it. Please don't turn this into some great mind working out Chelsea's frailties.

  • Comment number 14.

    Chelsea will want to revenge for the braking of Stamford Bridge last season by Liverpool.. Its going to be a tough one, but I see victory for Chelsea in the end!

  • Comment number 15.

    It's a game worthy of discussion, but this is just a few pretty sentences with no substance.

    "Ancelotti and Benitez only meet when the stakes are high - they do so again on Sunday." I can't imagine these teams meeting when the stakes are not high, what's your point?

    "For Chelsea, there is an echo of last October's meeting with Liverpool when Xabi Alonso's deflected goal ended an unbeaten Premier League run stretching back 86 games." Wow, Arsenal must have missed that, I thought they were the only team to go a season unbeaten. Chelsea went more than two in a row!

    Ferguson rarely criticiese his teams as openly as Benitez and now Ancelloti. That could be a point worth making.

    I think you rushed this one.

  • Comment number 16.

    Good article Phil, but where is your prediction? You don't have the gutts to take the critizism from Liverpool fans since i know that you believe Chelsea will destroy them. I believe it will be tough game as both teams trying to avoid defeat, nevertheless, Chelsea with their top striker (Didier) I can see only a win for them. The only hope for Liverpool is the absence of Cech, then there is the question of who will compete Essien, and mark my words, that's where the game will be won. 3-1 to Chelsea. Come on BLUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSS..............

  • Comment number 17.

    No idea what to expect from this one but it will probably be played like a Cup tie. I think Benitez will play Lucas and Masch if the latter is fit, but if not he will put the out of form Gerrard in central midfield with Benayoun and Kuyt swapping off in the hole. Riera should definitely be played on the left and I think Babel could be the secret weapon in the second half running at their left back. Babel is an infuriating player but he seems to save his best for the big occasions and this is definitely that. Skrtel and Carragher are the same players they were last year, it's the system that's changed and exposed them. I'd like to see the 2008 Reds against the big teams and this year's version (with the fullbacks playing as wing-backs) at home and against the lesser sides. Prediction 2-3 with the Blues controlling the game but some good counter-attack goals and poor goalkeeping from Hilario.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm on the fence with this one. I was horrified at the ease at which Wigan exposed the space behind our wing backs on Saturday. Each time we attacked, Wigan would win the ball back and counter attack at pace down the wings where the massive gaps were revealed.

    Also our lack of hunger compared to Wigan's tireless work rate almost lead me to turn the game off a number of times, an absolute nightmare for any supporter of any side.

    On the other hand, Liverpool displayed their remarkable reliance on Fernando Torres in the midweek game against Fiorentina. If he doesn't fire, Liverpool fail.

    Also Benitez needs to wake up and realise what the rest of us realised a long time ago; Lucas Leiva is absolutely terrible. During said game, he lost possession with wayward passes more times than he would have kept it. This is simply not good enough from a professional footballer.

    Both side's defending from set pieces is rather dire to say the least and this may lead to a few goals on Sunday.

    On a side note, Hilario is a more than capable 'keeper, don't be tempted to think otherwise.

    I'm tempted to be biased and say Chelsea to sneak it but a draw would be a more likely result. I wouldn't be surprised if Chelsea walked away with a 1-0 or 2-1, though.

  • Comment number 19.

    I've no clue whatsoever how anyone could tip Liverpool for the title. The writing was on the wall before the season started. Alonso left, he wasn't replaced despite that hoo-hah over Barry, and inferior players have crept into the squad. Liverpool don't even have a starting 11 that's good enough, let alone a squad.

    They'll be lucky to stay a top four side when you compare them to Manchester City and Tottenham.

  • Comment number 20.

    A draw for both these teams on Sunday means one step forward for United. No disrespect to Sunderland but Man Utd will beat them on Saturday, get the 3 points and move to the top of the table with a 2 pt margin and a decent goal difference lead over Chelsea/Liverpool.
    I believe a draw is not a good enough result for either teams. That said, the 2009/10 title home can't be decided now. Teams like Man City and Spurs have made the title race this year very interesting and the usual top 4 are bound to drop points against them. Title race to be very close this year!

  • Comment number 21.

    COME ON THE REDS! If Mascherano is fit we'll smash it. If not a draw will do. Torres and Gerrard are unstoppable.

  • Comment number 22.

    I can't see Rafa starting with the same line-up, and I hope there are many changes from midweek. I like Lucas, but any other player should be dropped after a performance like that and it is about time that Rafa stopped showing blind faith in him. I want to see Gerrard in the midfield alongside Mascherano, and - this is the key - I want Riera to start on the left wing. I think Riera could be the key to breaking down Chelsea and should definitely play.

    Reina
    Johnson--Carra--Skrtel--Aurelio
    Masch
    Gerrard
    Kuyt--Benayoun--Riera
    Torres

    In the 2nd half, bring Babel on for Benayoun and let him run at tired legs. I think that team should bring home the points, but it won't be an easy game. I'll be happy enough with a clean sheet to be honest - this early in the season, the points don't matter so much.

  • Comment number 23.

    As a Liverpool, I'm dreading this match..I have a feeling Chelsea are going to crush us like bugs :( Liverpool are much weaker now post-Alonso.

  • Comment number 24.

    Only one winner on sunday for me.

    Chelsea might have the dodgier goalkeeper, but have the better defence, midfield and striker than liverpool.

    The threat of Drog against the form of liverpools defence is much higher than the the threat of torres against the chelsea defence.

    Im a utd fan and drog acts like a clown most of the time, but when hes up for it, like he was a few seasons ago in a CL game vs liverpool (after Benitez hung up some bait for him), he will absolutely destroy you unlike any other striker in the prem.

    With no Alonso liverpool really do look poor in midfield. I expect a 3-1 win for chelsea.

  • Comment number 25.

    @21: " Torres and Gerrard are unstoppable."

    You mean like they were against Spurs, Villa and Fiorentina?

    This is big big game for Liverpool. So far they have had just 3 tests against quality opposition and have failed all 3. Lose at Chelsea and the writing is on the wall. They have gone backwards and, frankly, the loss of Alonso has had a much bigger impact on them than the loss of Ronaldo to Utd.

    The way things are shaping-up I think the question of whether Benitez will last the season will soon be on the agenda!

  • Comment number 26.

    I have noticed a distinct increase in the number of anti-Liverpool comments this year compared to previous years. Many who comment seem to be incensed by Phil McNultys prediction of Liverpool for the title.

    In addition I think that Liverpools excellent record against the top four last season has brought out some fear from Man Utd and Chelsea fans. In previous seasons Liverpool were not taken seriously and seen as CL cup tie specialists...not so anymore. Liverpool finishing ahead of Chelsea and beating them twice has blues fans furious and despite failing to beat United to the title, our thrashing of them at Old Trafford along with our outstanding end of season form (plus probably them being humiliated by Barcelona) has brought out a lot of vitriol from United fans.

    Lets be honest we all love it when one of our main rivals get beaten or show some weakness. The extra attention given to Liverpool this season, though, proves we are now a genuine contender, and that was'nt the case until now.

    Incidentally, over the past three days I have read that ALL of the following players are the SINGLE reason for Liverpools good season last year, and our three losses this year....
    Reina...lost the plot with his comments and has lost interest in Liverpool, without his clean sheets we are lost.
    Carragher....great form is over and we are shipping goals because of him.
    Arbeloa....underrated, and since he has been replaced by Johnson..!
    Mascherano...hasnt played well since he wants to go to Barcelona and without him Liverpool are weak in midfield.
    Alonso....he was Liverpools playmaker and without him we are weak.
    Lucas....terrible player who wouldnt get into any other prem team (despite playing in both defeats of United last year..)
    Gerrard....his loss of form exposes Liverpool as a one man team.
    Torres....we are a one man team and if he doesnt score we dont win.

    Get the picture?? I guess we are more than just a one or two man team....

  • Comment number 27.

    A classic encounter of both sides able to harness marauding attcking play against a shaky defence. Plenty of chances and goals for sure. The Reds to nip it given the terror that Torres and Gerrard impose on defenders.

  • Comment number 28.

    (29) torontored - If only a few more people saw things the same way. What I find most disappointing is that so many Liverpool fans themselves can't see through the media mirror. The stuff I hear about Liverpool sometimes is ridiculous - Benitez quality is debated despite an oustanding record; his signings are bad despite players like Alonso, Torres, Riera, Mascherano, Benayoun, Reina, Kuyt and Johnson (among others)all coming in under his reign (and Alonso's departure had nothing to do with Benitez); we're a one man team despite being top scorers with goals coming from all over the place; zonal marking doesn't work despite us having one of the best defences last year; we're too cautious and depend on lucky goals despite being top scorers last year - oh and did I mention we also had the most shots? YAWN YAWN YAWN

    And Lucas - I don't get it; he gets so much undue abuse. Benitez is very astute with his signings. When one doesn't work out, he cans them quickly. Lucas is playing 90 mins every week for a reason. And can the idiots (a few Liverpool fans included) stop saying "he wouldn't get into any other top 4 side" when we were about 24 hours away from losing Lucas to Man Utd!

    There is no magic wand; we very well might not win the league. But let's stop the ridiculous sweeping statements such as Liverpool being out of the race if they lose on Sunday; and Benitez potentially being up for the sack; some of the commentors on here are out of their minds.

    If reds fans want a decent LFC blog - check out Paul Tomkins blog either on the LFC site or on his own one. He's the best I've found in terms of rationality. (you can thank me later Paul!)

  • Comment number 29.

    Looking forward to a great game. My main worry is that of late match officials have been erratic and tend to favour the home teams. Please dont spoil the game. One Chelsea forward is well known for diving in very precarious positions. Thats bad.

  • Comment number 30.

    There honestly is a problem with Rafa.Until Liverpool accept that his method is flawed and get rid of him,and soon,there is trouble ahead.Here is the thing.The only players Real Madrid bought were players either the clubs were willing to flog for the monster amounts on offer,or players who already felt unsettled.Alonso falls into the latter category.Benitez had already showed a willingness to sell him the season before in exchange for Barry.And yet Barry ends up going to City for peanuts compared to what was paid for a player Liverpool didn't really need,Johnson.How does that translate into proper management?Why unsettle your own squad in pursuit of a player who's probably not even as good as what you have?Ask any manager,Alonso and Gerrard were a partnership made by the god of midfield.Better even than what Barcelona have,just look at how Barcelona fared against hard tackling Chelsea and you begin to see the point.And to replace this combination,you buy a crocked player,and play Lucas and Aurelio

  • Comment number 31.

    @28: "Benitez quality is debated despite an oustanding record"

    He has won nothing for 3 seasons. No matter who you are that brings pressure to bear at a Top 4 Club, and despite what you say, his record in the transfer market is very poor. In 5 years he's bought 96 players and re-sold 42 of those. 17 players he bought were sold within 18 months or less (many after just a single season). What does that say about his judgement of players?

    As for: "and Alonso's departure had nothing to do with Benitez."

    No idea why you think this....the obvious evidence suggests otherwise and many Liverpool fans share this view.

    And finally: "And Lucas - I don't get it"

    Well it seems most of your fellow fans do as it's almost entirely Liverpool fans I see lambasting Lucas and this has been going on for some time now. I'm fascinated to know where you would be slotting him into one of the other Top 4 sides?

    If you don't believe that Benitez will be under threat this year if things go pear shaped for Liverpool, I'm afraid that you don't know your own club or fans. It will be the fans who will call time.....and don't bet on it not happenning this season, depending on how things unfold.

  • Comment number 32.

    As a United fan, I fancy a draw between these two. However, a win for Liverpool is ok (can't believe I said that!), coz Chelsea looke more of a threat than the Reds... plus I am sure with the way Liverpool is playing, they will loose sooner than later. with the poor defense and midfield, they will not sustain the pressure every other match. so they can relish this one and give United a three point lead. Interesting, as that sounds, I still think they will draw - the blues for lack of a decent goalie and the reds for sheer desire to retain their hopes for the title alive.

  • Comment number 33.

    Both teams seem to be stuttering and failing to gell or find form in midfield or defense so far this season and are not matching United's cohesive play. United are a better ' team ' post Ronaldo and their squad depth is excellent , and they demonstrated to these pretenders how to play on Wednesday and the only other team capable of matching their style is Arsenal at their best.
    Sunday's match at the Bridge will be draw as neither team dare lose even though the title is never won this early in the season.
    I reckon 2-2, Lampard and Drogba, Torres and Benayoun to score.
    United 2-1 and on the way to another title.

  • Comment number 34.

    #26 torontored

    You are more than entitled to stand up for the team you support but I feel some of your comments are a little wide of the mark.

    "I have noticed a distinct increase in the number of anti-Liverpool comments this year compared to previous years. Many who comment seem to be incensed by Phil McNultys prediction of Liverpool for the title."

    This increase in anti-Liverpool comments may be due to:

    1. The loss of Alonso;
    2. The addition of an unproven, unfit and injury prone player as a replacement;
    3. Failure to capture Gareth Barry (or lack of any significant signing), and;
    4. Failure to win anything for yet another season.

    "In addition I think that Liverpools excellent record against the top four last season has brought out some fear from Man Utd and Chelsea fans. In previous seasons Liverpool were not taken seriously and seen as CL cup tie specialists...not so anymore. Liverpool finishing ahead of Chelsea and beating them twice has blues fans furious and despite failing to beat United to the title, our thrashing of them at Old Trafford along with our outstanding end of season form (plus probably them being humiliated by Barcelona) has brought out a lot of vitriol from United fans."

    Agree and disagree. I am scared witless at the thought of Liverpool on Sunday, but disagree that Liverpool were not or are not taken seriously. Let's not be bitter; yes you defeated us twice and finished higher than us on the table but we also won something and we got further in the CL than you. United, CL final and Liverpool flogging aside, had a superb season.

    "Lets be honest we all love it when one of our main rivals get beaten or show some weakness. The extra attention given to Liverpool this season, though, proves we are now a genuine contender, and that was'nt the case until now."

    Now you're just degrading your own team. Liverpool are a huge club with a massive history and therefore have been considered a contender for a long time, and will be for a long time to come.

    "Incidentally, over the past three days I have read that ALL of the following players are the SINGLE reason for Liverpools good season last year, and our three losses this year...."

    Ok, I'll go through your list.

    "Reina...lost the plot with his comments and has lost interest in Liverpool, without his clean sheets we are lost." Stupid comment, probably from a bitter fan. World class 'keeper.
    "Carragher....great form is over and we are shipping goals because of him." Don't know about shipping goals because of him but he certainly hasn't helped. His form has notably dipped.
    "Arbeloa....underrated, and since he has been replaced by Johnson..!". Don't understand this comment, I'd rate Arbeloa above average and no more.
    "Mascherano...hasnt played well since he wants to go to Barcelona and without him Liverpool are weak in midfield." His form has dropped off somewhat but he's still a top, top player. Injuries haven't helped, Liverpool really miss him in the middle.
    "Alonso....he was Liverpools playmaker and without him we are weak." I'm afraid to say I agree with this comment to an extent, I would replace "weak" with "weaker".
    Lucas....terrible player who wouldnt get into any other prem team (despite playing in both defeats of United last year..)

    Stop. I had to read this comment twice to make sure I hadn't misread. Lucas is an awful, awful player. End of argument. I don't care how many completed passes statistics people will throw at me. Benitez sticks with him simply out of stubbornness. Just because he played in two victories over a rival doesn't mean he's anything like a good player. He’s not; please stop pretending that he is. Did you watch the game against Fiorentina? Christ Almighty.

    "Gerrard....his loss of form exposes Liverpool as a one man team.
    Torres....we are a one man team and if he doesnt score we dont win.

    Get the picture?? I guess we are more than just a one or two man team...."

    Agreed but you do rely on these two players, even more than say United rely on Rooney or Chelsea on Drogba / Lampard. You do have quality in other areas of the park (for example, Youssi Benayoun), but lack the match winners that other sides possess. In saying this, football is of course a team sport and Liverpool could pull together to mount a serious title challenge; I just don’t see it happening this season.

    This contribution is in no way a wind up or out of spite.

    For the record, I tipped Liverpool to finish fourth this year.

  • Comment number 35.

    I am a Liverpool fan - this match gonna be an unpredictable affair. Because LFC defense is showing lot of weakness and Chelsea are monsterous team - on beast like Essien and the comical monster drogba who runs at the defence and more theatrical with the ref's

    Unless Benetiz works out a bizzare strategy - I dont see LFC winning.

    How to stop Drogba and Co in LFC Half and Keep the Ball in our possession.

    I see lot of changes in the team, may be few new faces who are strong, have strength to counter the Drogh,s - Gonna be a tough affair, a draw could be the realistic result.



  • Comment number 36.

    #7

    When Phil says "almost" over-turned a 3-1 defecit, he doesn't mean the overall scoreline in the tie. You're right, a 2-goal margin isn't "almost". What Phil means is that, twice during the course of the night, we were 1 goal away from going through and laying siege to the Chelsea goal. THAT is "almost".

    But with regard to the game on sunday itself, i think it's too hard to call. I agree with someone above who said that we need a win more than Chelsea do, but i also don't think our title challenge is over if we lose.

    Personally, i think it'll be 1-1. If anyone is going to win, it'll be by the odd goal. It'll be a tight game. My heart couldn't take another 4-4!

    I hope we win, but i'll settle for a draw as Chelsea are a class side. Who cares if they lost to Wigan. These things happen sometimes. They're still a top team and i'd be happy with a draw seeing as it's at the Bridge.
    Torres to score in the 21st minute, Kalou to equalise in the 82nd minute. 7 yellow cards in the game. Go on, put a quid on it. :-) :-)

  • Comment number 37.

    It's just a matter of time before Ancelotti gets fired. He was a poor choice.

  • Comment number 38.

    liverpool can win the title, if Mourinho is their coach and they get a fat load of cash.
    Chelsea must win this match, infact they shouldn't be dropping any points till mid January - February when Drog, Kalou, Essien and Mikel'll be at the ANC in Angola

  • Comment number 39.

    rooney gooney manu fan's your time is up as gooney guy cristiano and toney guy tevez are not there to save u this season.
    However, LFC shaky defense will be repaired when Agger the big Danes comes back as well as the little prince Aqualini will be back to defeat manu & co to the title

  • Comment number 40.

    Looking forward to Sundays game. I have to say however I am a little dissapointed with the criticism of benitez. he is a good manager but is so obviously hamstrung by the Hicks and Gillet. I don't think he wanted Alonso to go but they had fallen out and I think from that point Alonso was determined to go. That was compounded when Benitez tried to sign Barry. anyway Aquilani might be fantastic. Lets wait and see.
    Everyone agreed that Liverpool moved much closer to the title last year. They were a hairs breadth away from Utd. Not a huge amount has changed. Yes Alonso is a loss but Utd have lost Ronaldo and Tevez. Liverpool can win this match on Sunday against a strong and well organised Chelsea team. I have to say though I'd hate to watch CFC every week. They have great players and work really hard but it just does not excite. They try and out-muscle the opposition and do not play with any flair. it has however been hugely effective and they look like the team to beat.

    Liverpool to nick it by the odd goal, their fans to start praising Benitez as a god and Chelsea to brush it off and come back even stronger.

    Anyway all eyes should be fixed firmly on Eastlands because while they take points off each other we will quietly nip into Villa Park and collect another 3.

  • Comment number 41.

    The comment about Fiorentina is totally unjust!!! They're a quality team and when the draw was made I mentioned to several Liverpool fans who were happy with their draw that it was a very difficult and understated group! Fiorentina are a very good team with some quality players, some of which they showed midweek. Gilardino was missing and he is one of their main players. He never hit the heights at AC Milan but seems to have found a good home at Fiorentina. Another team in that group that has the potential to cause Liverpool several problems is Lyon. They've lost Benzema and Juninho and due to them not winning the league last year a lot of people seem to have written them off. What they have done though is re-invest the money from the Benzema deal in signing several players that have made the squad and team stronger!

    Liverpool won't cruise through this qualifying group as many expect!

  • Comment number 42.

    Re #26 Toronto Red
    You're absolutely right about some rival fans being scared of Liverpool. Speaking for myself as a United fan anyway, I'd never dream of writing them off as title contenders.
    You're always going to get some people who are posting anti-Liverpool, anti-United anti-whoever and thats always going to be a feature of these blogs.
    Everyones got an opinion on why certain teams are playing better or worse than last season, Liverpool are usually in the spotlight more than others because I think they are under the most pressure to succeed.
    As for the game on Sunday, really looking forward to it and it seems to have draw written all over it.. would prefer a Chelsea win to be honest though. (not being anti-Liverpool, would just prefer a Chelsea win)

  • Comment number 43.

    I had to laugh when I read 'Benitez' and 'icy calm' in the same sentence. Brilliant.

  • Comment number 44.


    i really don't understand this, it seems some people on here think that if Liverpool lose sunday or draw, that the season is over for them already and Utd already have won the league?

    I don't think so for a couple of reasons - Utd lost 4 times last season and still won the league, if Chelsea win they will be right behind Utd and play them soon, don't right off Spurs or City yet they can always keep pressure on the top three, Liverpool beat Utd and Chelsea last season comfortably, and also Liverpool are now beating the teams they drew against last season.

    I think alot of people on here should look at the table again just after New Year and then maybe talk about how it could turn out. if a team is so far ahead maybe they will win it or it could be up to a five horse race which would make it much more excitng especially after Utd and Chelsea have won it in past seasons by a comfortable margin basically all season.

    and for a final fact, Utd and Liverpool have both won the league after very poor starts in a season.

    So let's hope it goes down to the final minute in the final game of the season, so we can keep guessing right down to the very end :O)

  • Comment number 45.

    as a united fan i hope both of them lose somehow.............

  • Comment number 46.

    Anyone would think chelsea lost mid week. More substance less style please. both managers might be asking that from their players too.

  • Comment number 47.

    Liverpool really need to perform at the weekend, it's all well and good hammering the likes of Hull and Burnley at home but so far they have lost their three toughest matches. They did get an away win at West Ham however even in that match they conceeded two.

    The real prolem for Liverpool is they got a huge points boost against there title Rivals as a result of defeating both Man Utd and Chelsea home and away. As a result if for example they draw both games against Chelsea they'll have to make up 6 points somewhere else to catch them.

    That for me is the big Achilles heel in the predictions many have been making that this is Liverpool's year. While they took 14 points in top four clashes, the latter two took only 5 and 4 points respectivley. It is highly unlikley that will be the case again this year, United have taken maximum points from matches against City, Spurs and Arsenal who all maybe challenging for Champions League positions and indeed all had 100% records when they met United.

    In short given the points Liverpool took in the big encounters last year they should have won the league, now without Alonso and with their defence looking very shakey they need to proove they are capeable of challenging on Sunday because on current evidence it's hard to see them finishing within ten points of this seasons champions.

  • Comment number 48.

    Liverpool F.C. 2 Chelsea F.C. 1

  • Comment number 49.

    At 03:19am on 02 Oct 2009, torontored wrote:

    Keep dreaming buddy, I think there are more anti Liverpool comments because your boss is dislikeable and proves it more and more, many people are making it a personal thing to see Rafa loose. I used to have a healthy respect for Livperpool but their newer breed of fans, the rabid jealous kind, have no style or grace. Liverpool are certainly a threat to anyones title aspirations, but they are less strong than last year. They won't stay the distance like they did last year. That is not to say other teams won't have issues, but other teams will beat liverpool this year and that is something that has changed.

  • Comment number 50.

    The use of Aurelio as the holding playing in front of the back four against Fiorentina was quite baffling and clearly didn't work. He was completely anonymous and the defence was exposed.

    This highlights the much-discussed lack of depth Liverpool currently posses, but it also exposed a more concerning fragility in the back four - particularly in the centre. Over the past few years, the defence has been the one consistent strength of the team (along with Gerrard's reptitive brilliance).

    Re-signing Agger was crucial, if only for a genuine competition for places. Something is not right at the back and if anyone is likely to expose it, Drogba et al are very realistic candidates.

    That said, Liverpool are dangerous with backs against the wall and can never be written off. So regardless of everything I've just said about a shakey defence and no strength in depth, I'm going for a Torres goal in a 1-0 Liverpool win! Fingers crossed!

  • Comment number 51.

    I am Man U fan, and i will go for chealsea to win, because i am concerned and worry of liverpool than the blues.
    Even if chelsea win this one i am sure come january or february all will see at chealsea are tired legs, look at their average age. i am for a stable chealsea and unstable liverpool for now.

    Chealsea 2 Liverpool 0

    Go man U lets for the 4th title it can be DONE.

  • Comment number 52.

    It funny how all of the Manure and Chelski fans on here want to come on and criticise Lucas for not be a world class player (which is true)but they make no mention of the fact that Carrick is a bag of sh*t who cost nearly £19m or Obi Mikel who's a waste of time and cost £15m.

    Neither of those players are any better than Lucas they just have more experience in the premier league, but come with much bigger price tags and haven't delivered.

    People like to say how a couple of league defeats has ended Liverpools season and shown up the weaknesses, those defeats came against two of the sides who are supposed to be challenging for the top four this season. Chelsea where totally outclassed by Wigan and Man U lost to Burnley surely that should raise more questions about the quality of their teams.

    A lot is made of Benitez transfer dealing and some of the flops he's bought, all mangers buy a few duds but in their time but at least he recognises that and gets rid of them again.
    Robbie Keane was shipped out quickly, Motientes didn't last long. But all Man U fans seem to think that Alex Ferguson has never made any mistakes but if you look at his record there are loads and most of them have been big money signings -
    Veron £30m,
    Forlan £14m,
    Carrick £19m,
    Berbatov £32m
    That seems to be clouded over.

  • Comment number 53.

    'the annual pursuit of Manchester United'

    This made me smile, hoping for a draw or a Chelsea win.

  • Comment number 54.

    If we can keep drogba under control, the games in the bag!!

    Drop gerard into centre mid if masch isnt fit, kyut behind torres benayoun and either babel or riera on the wing.

    Y.N.W.A

  • Comment number 55.

    ticehurst41 wrote:

    Veron £30m,
    Forlan £14m,
    Carrick £19m,
    Berbatov £32m

    Veron is the only mistake there. It broke up the midfield system. Berbatov is overvalued but that is the market. Your figures for Carrick and Floran are wrong.

  • Comment number 56.

    The game needs more managers like these two. I like the way Benitez condemned Mascherano's behaviour for the red card against Utd, like Ancellotti he tells it how it is. Hard to see either manager condoning what's going on with the lack of discipline in the game now. Mssr's Wenger, Hughes and Ferguson should take note.

  • Comment number 57.

    I am not sure what to make of either Liverpool or Chelsea so far this season. At times, they have both looked impressive, but then at other times they have looked hopeless

    Liverpool seem to have righted their major problem of last season (their inability to kill off the so-called poorer teams (Stoke, Hull etc)). In fact they have done this very well with significant wins against each of them so far. But then they come up against the better teams (Spurs, Villa, Fiorentina) and they have really struggled.

    Chelsea, on the other hand, have struggled to beat the so-called poorer teams (Stoke, Hull etc) and had their best result against a revitalized Spurs. Not sure what to make of them at all.

    In a lot of ways, this match is the first real test for each of them this year (for both of them their first 'top-4' match of the season) and should show us how they might actually go this year. One thing I am sure of - whoever loses will not be out of the race - as has been pointed out, losing 1 match out of three is better than drawing 2 out of 3 (provided you win the others!)

  • Comment number 58.

    Liverpool will never win the title as long as Benitez is in charge.

    He has consistently bought bad players over a number of years and we are now at the point where they have the weakest squad of the other big three teams.
    City, Spurs and Villa look to have squads of equal quality.

    Liverpool's performance on Tuesday was not entirely unexpected.
    Their defence isn't what it was last season. Lucas wouldn't get into any other premiership side and when things are not going well plan B involves moving Gerradd deeper to compensate for Alonso not being there.

    I'm not a Chelsea fan but I fear for Liverpool on Sunday and can only see one winner. Drogba must be licking his lips at the prospect of lining up against them having had a rest in mid week.

    Sure Chelsea had a bad performance at Wigan and were unconvincing in mid-week but they rarely perform badly at home.

    This is the first game in a little stretch of fixtures for Liverpool that could well define their season. They play Utd in a few weeks, have a difficult trip to Sunderland and (I think) back to back games with Lyon.

    Think Liverpool fans should hold on to the memory of putting 6 past Hull last week. I hate to say it but that could well be the highlight of your season.





  • Comment number 59.

    Liverpool were very poor in Italy this week, but that does look like a blip. Chelsea on the otherhand, were poor in Europe, and also in the league at the weekend. It will be a massive game for both clubs, even at this early stage - defeat for Liverpool would mean that they had already lost more games this season than in the entire campaign last time round. Personally, I think 2-1 Liverpool - Cech being suspended is a massive boost for them, and they are the team with most to prove, but, being away, the least to lose.
    http://sportales.com/soccer/english-premiership-correct-score-predictions-week-seven-031009/

  • Comment number 60.

    Hilario has kept a clean sheet against Barcelona. Not many goalkeepers can say that in recent years so I'm quietly confident he will prove a few people wrong.

    Of course I'm worried about Liverpool, because some of their players can be unplayable at times. Having said that I feel Chelsea have more match winners and fresh legs like Mr Drogba and Bosingwa to come into the team meaning that if the right Chelsea turn up for a change, they will be more than a match for Liverpool.

    Like many I feel it will be tight, but that's partly due to the inconsistency of both sides. If it weren't for a lucky deflection last season, Liverpool wouldn't have won at Stamford Bridge, and with Ancelotti showing more strings to his tactical bow, I feel the result will have a very different outcome to last year.

  • Comment number 61.

    This match does not determine Liverpool's season the way some have suggested. The key questions to be asked about their title credentials are the following:

    1.When Aquliani comes into the side will he add class, quality, and help control midfield (something we used to do against even the best sides when Alonso was wearing Red) and take pressure off Gerrard/Torres in unlocking defences and scoring goals? Can he stay fit?
    2.Can the defence learn to adapt to our more attacking style?
    3.Is Mascherano committed to the cause?
    4.Will our taller players start stepping up and dealing with balls into the box? Skrtel and Carra have been awful so far at this.
    5.Will the Ryan Babel of his first season reemerge?
    6.Can we get a better back-up for Torres in January if we're challenging?
    7.Can Daniel Agger come in to the side and live up to his immense potential?

    I predicted before that we'd win 2-3 at the Bridge. The more I think about it, we have a chance if it's close at half-time. If we let in a few soft goals off set-pieces we could get a hiding, but I'll stick with my predo nonetheless.

  • Comment number 62.

    These tussles are always close, little to choose between the sides in recent years. But the comments already sum it up for me: Drogba v Torres!
    Both defenses, including Liverpool without 'Alonso' as a holding player and Chelsea bizarrely not as water tight as in previous seasons, points for me to maybe a 3.2 or scoring draw. Liverpool will undoubtably raise there game from Mid-week, Chelsea will be a different propsition too! Benitez is clever when it comes to Champions League, not so much with the Premiership, and Ancellotti still learning, but fast!
    Still think that Chelsea with have the edge, with Essien on great form, Drogba menacing as ever, Lampard is due a goal? and home advantage.
    2.2 or 3.2?
    For all fans, not just the Blues and Reds, it will be a fascinating game, can't wait!!!

  • Comment number 63.

    Phil, how you decided that Fiorentina are unremarkable is beyond me, they have one of the best defences in Europe at the moment, Gamberini has been absolutely solid in Serie A for years since moving to the Viola, id rather have him at the moment than carragher or skrtel. Marchionni was impeccable, was more dangerous than benayoun and did more running than kuyt, could have replaced both of them with him. Mutu and Jovetic are an exciting pairing and dont forget they still have Gilardino to come back. A great keeper and a smattering of other quality players, its hard to understand how people can continually underestimate them. Liverpool arent the first english team to lose there and they wont be the last.
    Still think we will qualify 1st though. 2-2 at the weekend, Liverpool scraping a lucky draw after 2 drogba goals.

  • Comment number 64.

    Interesting selection of posts. Plenty of optimism - and pessimism too.

    If I was a Chelsea fan my big worry would be Hilario. Not a quality keeper. Chelsea supporters, you brought in Ross Turnbull from Middlesbrough in the summer, should you have set the bar higher in the event of Petr Cech being suspended or injured?

    Out of the so-called Big Four, I actually think Liverpool's Pepe Reina is by far and away the best goalkeeper. Petr Cech, while still formidable, is not the force he once was while Manchester United and Arsenal both have goalkeeping problems in my opinion.

    And to Blue1905...no, no prediction because I am torn between who will win. I must correct you on one matter though, I do not believe Chelsea will destroy Liverpool.

    And to Liverpool fans, how important is it that Javier Mascherano is fit after missing the defeat against Fiorentina, even though he has not been at his best this season?

  • Comment number 65.

    to the people talking about Fergies bad signings, Kleberson, Eric Djemba Djemba, Nani, Alan Smith, Massimo Taibi... oh and the mercurial David Bellion hahaha
    Saying this Rafa bought Josemi, Nunez and a couple of other shockers XD
    Lucas will come good when he doesnt have the pressure of replacing two of the worlds best centre mids in Alonso and Mascher.
    Whoever said Robbie Keane, he wasnt signed by Rafa, but by the board. Hence Rafa not playing him and then selling him...

  • Comment number 66.

    Good article, enjoyed it. made sense i guess.

    Personally i think there will be goals, i think both teams are more potent this season, both have the players to win games and both have the defences to lose games, so a few goals to be had.

    As a Liverpool fan i am hopeful of a win, i think we can do it, we have the players too, but like you said, Aurelio in centre midfield did not work, he seemed a bit lost against Fiorentina, i would love to see SPEARING thrown into the game, i think this boy is something special, and i think it could be his chance againts Chelsea, i would welcome it if Benitez threw him into the game.

    As for Carragher and Skrtle, personally i think Carragher has been very poor this season, and i think Skrtle is doin two mans job at the moment, Carras positional play has not been very good this season, he has been at fault for numerous goals this season. I cannot wait for Agger to be back, composed and very good centre back, who will eventually take over from carra.

    i hope Liverpool come out attacking, id rather se us lose trying to win than not, Drogba and Torres hold the key to who wins personally.

    Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool (H-T 1-1)

  • Comment number 67.

    Apoel, you may have lost but you've made our Cyprus Proud!

  • Comment number 68.

    Mascherano is hugely important to Liverpool, as was proven against Fiorentina. When his is on top form, he is immense at protecting the back four.

    While he's not been at his best this season, he's still far better than the alternatives. His name on the teamsheet will give confidence to the defence while allowing Gerrard the freedom to get forward and support Torres.

    Vital, for me, that Mascherano plays - even if he is off his game at the moment.

  • Comment number 69.

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

  • Comment number 70.

    Hi Hpil. I was wondering if you feel that this could be the occasion for the ultimate big game player himself. Ie. gerrard, Lampard, Torres or Drogba. From what I can remember Drogba has a phenomenal record of scoring and therefore performing in finals and semi-finals of competitions. I would love to know some stats on this, all barring Moscow ’08 of course. Lampard scored in that game, and has now scored a few goals vs Liverpool, particularly at Anfield. Torres scored in the Euro ’08 final and scored a clincher against Chelsea in ’07. With Gerrard, the CL ’05 final stands out, as well as the FA cup final in ’06. What conclusions can you draw from this?

  • Comment number 71.

    Re: post 22
    Reina
    Johnson--Carra--Skrtel--Aurelio
    Masch
    Gerrard
    Kuyt--Benayoun--Riera
    Torres

    WOW! Finally someone agrees with me. Until Aquilani is available our default team should always be Gerrard playing in midfield rather than behind Torres. Benayoun is in very good form at the moment but he keeps getting shifted all over the pitch. If he was just left to do what he is best at like the last 10 games of last season our performances would be great.

    If Masch is injured then Lucas can play.

    If Ashley Cole is still injured I would expect Babel to come on for Kuyt at some point for the extra pace.

    Although DAgger (:)) played in the reserves yesterday he probably isn't ready so I think he should merit the sub bench.

    After the midweek performances I think that we have more to prove at the weekend-which isn't hard to argue considering we lost after one of the worst 45mins of football I have seen from this team-and Chelsea won! So what if Ancelotti wasn't happy Chelsea won their game and thats all that matters! We are a different prospect in the barely any draws premiership this season and for the first time I feel confident going into a match against Chelsea. I think that there will be a Liverpool victory depending on if either team gets a very early goal (first 5 mins) or if anyone gets sent off. Lampard, Terry and Stevie to a lesser extent all had unlikely sendings off last season so hoping that this match won't be affected by one of them getting red.

    The only team I am worried about this season is from Manchester and they don't wear red!!!

  • Comment number 72.

    Its an understatement to say this is a big game for both teams.

    I think though the bigger pressure is on Liverpool. A win would be a big boost for their confidence and keep them right in the hunt for that title. A loss would be a massive blow. Yes of course the title won't be lost with a defeat but the confidence will hit rock bottom. This is the season Liverpool have been bigging up for the months, they can't allow themselves to fail.

    As for ticehurst41 comments about the united buys, Veron and Forlan I will except (although the two Forlan knocked in agaisnt Liverpool make hin worth the price in my opinion)Berbatov is doing well for us, as his medal haul will tell you. Carrick has been excellent in previous seasons for United, a current dip in form can't mask his ability and trophy collection. Benetiz would give his right arm for a player of Carricks class. Instead he has a stinker like Lucas playing. I bet you a pound to a penny Mr Gerrard would like to have someone like Carrick in the team instead of the pap Liverpool insist on buying.

    The good thing is about United is even though they make these "shocking" buys they still win silverwear. But Benetiz just makes "shocking" transfers and wins sweet fa.

    In Rafa We Trust

    2-0 Chelsea.

  • Comment number 73.

    "Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez only meet when the stakes are high," says Phil McNulty.

    "Hello, Rafa? Carlo here. Fancy a game this weekend?"
    "Nah, sorry mate - the stakes aren't high enough. Call me again in a couple of weeks and we'll see how the table looks then."

    What you mean is that the stakes are always high when Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez meet. A subtle but important difference. Sloppy thinking/journalism.

  • Comment number 74.

    Even with the Mash fit it isn't going to be much of a contest. Lucas has potential (CareFreeCoors interesting opinion aside/disregarded) but we are going in light against the most robust midfield in the league, and i believe Essien, Lampard and Ballack will have a field day. And i'm a Liverpool supporter. Also, slightly worried that Mash has been sold to Barca, to leave at the end of the season, which is why he isn't trying when fit.

  • Comment number 75.

    has Lawro ever predicted Liverpool will lose in his weekly predictions.... talk about watching the world through rose tinted glasses.... he's far to biased and should be replaced

  • Comment number 76.

    Hi Phil,

    Even an out of form Mascherano is better than the pairing of Lucas and Aurelio in midfield. I understand why Rafa was trying out that option (didn't want to break up the Gerrard Torres combination up front), but I cannot see him employing that system again. If Masch is injured, then Gerrard will switch back into midfield and Riera will come on the left while Benayoun will play the Gerrard role.
    However, I believe the game will be won/lost depending on how Johnson fares against Cole and vice-versa. This duel will be fascinating as they are both outstanding full-backs.
    You mentioned the tactics that Rafa employed when he played Scolaris Chelsea, and I honestly think that if he does that again, he will stop Chelsea. All their danger comes from the deep runs that A. Cole and Bosingwa make offensivley. If you cut out that supply then Chelsea appear to be very narrow with essentially 3 central midfielders (Essien, Lampard and Deco/Ballack) and one winger (Malouda). Liverpool on the other hand do not have that problem because their players are interchangable with Benayoun being able to play anywhere across the middle, Kuyt can play and the right or behind Torres and Gerrard can play anywhere.

    I tip Liverpool to win this one 1-2 (Drogba, Torres, Gerrard)

  • Comment number 77.

    As quickblueturtle said Benitez will never win the title!
    Admittedly Ancellotti have yet to prove what he can do, but he does have the respect and command of the squad, not sure about Benitez?
    Benitez is too clever for his own good sometimes, Liverpool have a decent sized squad, but some of his tactics are baffling? sure you Reds will agree.
    I am seeing comments about how easily Liverpool be the Blues home and away, I was at both games, it could have been 2 draws of 2 defeats?
    My only concern is Hilario, he's good but not experienced enough, although I do remember a few years back, and against, Liverpool he had a blinder! Note: Drogba 25 yards on the turn... history does repeat itself, watch what happens Sunday? and a certain Joe Cole....

    If JT & Ricky keep it tight at the back, The Blues have the Edge!
    A defeat for either wouldn't signal the end of a Challenge for the title... but would make it difficult, as United are getting points, even they are not at their best, same could be said of Chelsea....
    The tussles between these 2 sides have taken on far greater significance since Chelsea joined the Elite (I know REDS only 2 Premierships)but we are around to stay, even hardened Man U fans recognise that Chelsea are arguably their biggest threat....



  • Comment number 78.

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

  • Comment number 79.

    #72.

    Carrick is so great thats why everyone across Europe is trying to buy him at every transfer window and he is first name on the teamsheet every time for MU. Considering that SAF paid about the same for him as we did for Torres I know which player I would rather have for the money.

    Carrick's weaknesses have been found out, mainly the lack of pace, and he has been shown-in the friendly against Spain and in the CL final against Barcelona that he can have rings run round him by quality players, not to mention the 2 games you lost against us last season.

    Anyway this is all irrelevant anyway as we don't play 4-4-2 so why would we want to sign Carrick???

    More pressure is on Chelsea actually as they are joint top of the league with you lot. We don't have anything to lose as we are behind and can just go and play our football.

    Please also remember that although we haven't won anything for a couple of seasons we were in 2 CL finals one of which we won in the last 5 years. Even the one we lost...WE STILL SCORED..and it was a contest instead of a one-sided disaster. No wonder CR had had enough.

  • Comment number 80.

    Poster 72 reckons Liverpool are under most pressure? Is that true? I'm not sure I agree with the assertion. I would suggest the pressure is the same for Chelsea as it is for Liverpool.

    What do you think? Does one team need victory more than the other? And Chelsea fans, tell me what you think of how Carlo Ancelotti has started his job Stamford Bridge.

  • Comment number 81.

    @Gerrardswhiskers: "The only team I am worried about this season is from Manchester and they don't wear red!!!"

    Yes, typical comment from you. Weren't you strutting it in the off season about the departure of Ronaldo and predicting the demise of Utd? Hasn't really panned out that way so far has it?

    I think you have far more serious issues to focus on than looking anywhere in the direction of Manchester.....like holding onto 4th place for example!

  • Comment number 82.

    To the mods,

    Is diving not cheating? Is rolling off the pitch injured, looking up seeing an attack the rolling back on to get the game stopped not cheating? If you can't honestly answer no then why was my post moderated?

  • Comment number 83.

    As much as I would love to see Liverpool win the league I think that they will struggle to finish in the top 4. This season they have relied on Gerrard and Torres even more because of the departed Xabi Alonso. Alonso was the player who the defenders could rely upon to be available for the simple pass. Then Alonso had the the ability to analyse the situation and put his superior passing ability to great effect. Liverpool are missing this and look very ordinary in posession. Their hope lies in Aquilani, who needs to hit the ground running (when fit) if they are to win anything this season.

    As for the match against Chelsea. I think Chelsea will dominate and Liverpool will have to work very hard to earn a point in the match. Best case scenario: Torres scores and Liverpool hold on for a clean sheet. Worst case: Chelsea take their chances and win comfortably.

  • Comment number 84.

    As a Liverpool fan, I have to agree with those who are saying that there is more pressure on us. Chelsea have looked more impressive thus far this season, while we have looked shakier than our end-of-season form in May would have led many to predict. Thus, I think they can absorb the impact of a defeat more easily than could Liverpool. And hence, more pressure on us to get a win.

    I think a draw is on the cards, and that would (through gritted teeth) be an acceptable result from this weekend.

  • Comment number 85.

    As a United fan I don't really care about the outcome of this match, although a draw would be probably for the best. A win of either of both teams would be fine too - If the Reds win Chelsea will be 3 points behind (assuming we win on Saturday), and if the Blues win - well, it's always a pleasure to see Liverpool lose.
    So come on Blues&Reds work your magic

  • Comment number 86.

    As a Liverpool fan, I am not worried by our recent dip in form and a few defesive frailties. We have still won convincingly at home and have scored more goals than anyone else in the premiership. And even though we have lost to Aston Villa and Tottenham so far this season, lets not forget that Burnley and Wigan have beaten Manchester United and Chelsea respectively. All this means is that that gap between the so called "big four" and the rest of the league, is getting smaller and smaller, the further into this season we get.

    Like any other follower of a football team, there is nothing more disappointing than turning on Match of the Day and seeing your team beaten by another side, but i am also excited by the fact that the race for the top 4 positions is far more contested that what it has been for many years. With weaker temas now growing in strength, i now don't have to wait for the usual big 3 to come to Anfield before i can see a proper contest involving Liverpool.

    In regards to the forthcoming match on Sunday, i think it will be a corker. Matches between Liverpool and Chelsea in the past haven't been exactly been ones to remember (exception to Carling Cup final and Champions league semi final) but i think it will be a match well worth watching whatever premierleague team you follow.

  • Comment number 87.

    Its clear that this could go either way. If there is a pivotal weak link in either side then that is clearly Lucas. As a LFC fan i have yet to see any justification in his constant starting place in the first XI.I have no idea what rafa see's in him. You only have to look at Gerrards body language when yet another stray pass wistles over his head from Lucas.He simply cant believe that this guy is playong alongside him,after all the promises made to bring in quality to spearhead a serious title challenge, they let go of Alonso and replace him with a defender? Gone are the days when we could bring on quality substitutes in the form of Didi Hamann!
    Having said that there is no alternative at the moment and Lucas is sure to start, hopefully alongside a fit again Mascherano. Unlike previous seasons there will be no mind games where this match is concerned, as its clear what team both managers will play(liverpool have no strength in depth to throw anything but thier usual XI out there!)
    Having said that this will be Ancelotti's first real test at the very top of the premiership spectrum and this may be a baptism of fire for him with regards to tactics. This is clearly the one advantage that Benetiz has over his counterpart, and this could well make the difference in what is bound to be another very tight contest.
    I am hopeful for a home win but with Drogba in full flow at the moment i cant imagine him not scoring.
    Score draw looks likely!

  • Comment number 88.

    @Gerrardswhiskers: Re Carrick, 3 seasons, 3 PL titles and a CL. He's been an almost ever present in those campaigns......so, yes, he's clearly rubbish....enough said!

  • Comment number 89.

    I believe if Liverpool play Lucas, we will lose. When playing Chelsea, you can't afford to give up posession or give away cheap free kicks around our area and unfortunately that is what Lucas brings to the table.
    The fact that Cech is out is a glimmer of hope that Torres, Benayoun, Kuyt and Gerrard might be able to capitalise on - but you have to fancy Chelsea, the way Liverpool have been playing.
    Lastly Carragher needs to get his act together damn quick. West Ham embarrassed him and he was at fault for both their goals and the almost one that hit the post. If it had been one of the others making those mistakes, he would still be screaming at them now. If he carries on like that, Drogba will murder us.

  • Comment number 90.

    Please all of the United fans on here stop acting like you're miles ahead of Liverpool in the table. You're 3 points ahead and we've got better goal differential. We started slowly and you were lucky against Arsenal (Arshavin denied a penalty, Rooney dived) and City (goal scored in two hundredth minute). This is why no neutrals like you despite having class players like Giggs and Scholes.

  • Comment number 91.

    " And Chelsea fans, tell me what you think of how Carlo Ancelotti has started his job Stamford Bridge. "

    First up I am not a chelsea fan but my answer to the above is;

    he has started the same way as every other manager Chelsea has, and they have had a few i think.

    New guy, inherits a squad goes a few games unbeaten, Chelsea are lauded as Man u's biggest threat ( yawn ) " flawless start " ends in emphatic style. Thier manager when talking about his retirement plans mentions among other things, he hopes to stay long (2015 ) but then gets an attack of realism by saying, it wont be up to him . meaning he has done his homework on the Chelsea mindset and unless they win something more than the FA Cup or CC he will be ploughing his trade elsewhere.
    Seems the Cheque book has been closed for the time being, so he will have to work with what he has, but as most of them have been together for quite some time, that will hardly prove difficult, its not as if he is/has built his own team or attempted to.

    as for the game itself, for the sake of football in general I would like to see Liverpool win, in fact I think they will quite handsomely as well.

    then we can all sit back and watch all the shouts of sack the manager from most of the chelsea surporters who contribute to 606 and these Bloggs.

    up the Gunners.

  • Comment number 92.

    81. At 11:24am on 02 Oct 2009, WordsofWisdom wrote:
    @Gerrardswhiskers: "The only team I am worried about this season is from Manchester and they don't wear red!!!"
    I think you have far more serious issues to focus on than looking anywhere in the direction of Manchester.....like holding onto 4th place for example!

    LOL. Think you have got me confused with an Arsenal supporter there mate. If utd supporters don't take City seriously that is fine by me. They will be level on points and possibly ahead of you and us by the time they play their game in hand and they don't have the distraction of the CL that the rest of us have. They nearly got a draw with you lot and their 3 first choice strikers were injured! MU were only missing Hargreaves and you can't really count that as he has hardly even played since he arrived. If Citeh are still in the same position in January they are going to find it ridiculously easy to buy players that Chelsea aren't allowed to buy, Man Utd and us can't afford and Arsenal don't want to buy for some strange reason!

    Anyway for WUM right back at you purposes I will have to mention the 7 minutes injury time that allowed Owen to get the winner in the derby. That was truly ridiculous even though I am pleased that Owen got an important goal. He is truly a Scouse at heart so geting goals for your lot will always keep us happy. Don't think you'll find him scoring against Liverpool though.

    Too early to tell about Ronaldo but he has had an excellent start for Madrid. We will really see the impact as the cold weather hits and the lower table teams start parking the bus whether the 1-0 goals will come from somewhere else. It certainly won't be Nani filling his shoes and Valencia doesn't seem to be able to get a continuous run in the team. No idea why.

  • Comment number 93.

    Ancelloti? I think we have probably got the best manager for the club after the loss of The Special One, with the exception of Gus who did an amazing job. He seems to have continued in on from what Gus did, and seems to have the respect of the players.
    Tactically he has shown that there is place in the side for Drogba and Anelka, again Gus showed it can work.... 11m foir anelak was good business as it now turns out? but occasionally, that has weakened the middle of the park. a fully fit Essien with Lamps and Ballack and one wide player does work. Not too mention one of England's finest 'Joe Cole' returning, he can play anywhere in Midfiled or Up front?
    That alone will give Ancelloti the extra dimension he needs.
    Prediction Chelsea to win Premiership, but by the closet of Margins from Man U, even then not 100% convinced? Liverpool, Arsenal, Man City for third, I can't spilt the rest at the moment, but do feel 'Arsenal' will surprise teams and may get 3rd?
    ANCELLOTI: Overall 8/10 and he will get better.

  • Comment number 94.

    post 86 by ByeByeRonaldo
    With weaker temas now growing in strength, i now don't have to wait for the usual big 3 to come to Anfield before i can see a proper contest involving Liverpool.
    -----
    how disparaging of the rest of the EPL - the arrogance of RAFA seems to be infectious.
    Despite the lack of proper opposition Liverpool have not done too well for the past few EPL seaons. Was it not the failure to beat the so-called lesser teams that cost you the title last season??

  • Comment number 95.

    CHELSEA are the biggest threat to United, Ask their Boss!
    I agree we have had too many manager of late, Mourinho should never had gone! Yes Ancellotti has had to work with what he has, and they have been together a long time but a lot of managers have had a squad to work with and still screwed up! 9 wins out of 10 Average?(£12m for Zurkov? paid for with shirt buttons no doubt?)and why would he want to bring in new players when he has a squad STRONG enough to win the Prem?
    Liverpool are not the same without Alonso, he allowed Gerrard to play.
    United the same without Ronaldo... Arsenal, great football, great stadium, great manager, NO STRENGTH in depth.... enough said
    3.2 Chelsea, maybe more............

  • Comment number 96.

    As a Manchester United fan, I would prefer Chelsea V Liverpool to be a score-draw on Sunday. It seems a long shot to me, though.

    Last year's fixture was a totally different match, as Liverpool had a stronger midfield. This year round, Alonso is gone and Mascherano, although a world class player, is a defensive midfielder. So, stick Essien or whoever capable on Liverpool's creative midfielder and stop their attack. Of course, Benitez will try to use the width, but Chelsea, I believe can live with that, with ease.

    It is going to be a comfortable win for Chelsea. Well, it's only Sunday, the day after tomorrow. Myself, I care only for Manchester United to win tomorrow, improving the goals scored difference.

  • Comment number 97.

    @86
    I beg to differ, there is something far more disappointing than watching your team lose on match of the day, watching them lose at the match :p

  • Comment number 98.

    i see it as a chelsea game this week..
    from the back four to the midfields, chelsea really have the strength.
    LIverpool needs to really work out theu arse for this...

  • Comment number 99.

    Hilario may not be in Cech's class, but he's a very good deputy. No need to panic.

  • Comment number 100.

    Backing up some previous posts, Maschereno is hugely important to Liverpool for the match against Chelsea. If he is not fit, then I really don't think Liverpool can win this game.

    I think both sides realise that they need to give a dominant performance to show their title credentials, and as a result will feel the pressure, leading to a scrappy and tetchy affair, and probably a controversial decision by the ref.

    Chelsea need to start the game strong and with high tempo, in recent games it has always been Liverpool out of the blocks faster and taking an early lead. Chelsea can't afford that to happen on Sunday.

 

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