Liverpool play host to Chelsea at Anfield in the lunch time kick-off tomorrow. Gavin Bergin previews the game.
It’s just over six months since that game, when Jose Mourinho’s men frustrated Liverpool and snatched a win at Anfield which pretty much ended the title hopes of Liverpool. Tomorrow sees Chelsea return to Anfield, this time as league leaders themselves, to face a Liverpool side who haven’t hit the heights of last season.
Brendan Rodgers faced a huge amount of criticism for his team selection against Real Madrid earlier this week. Selecting a largely reserved team for a high profile Champions League match, Rodgers left himself open to questioning of his methods and was fortunate that Madrid somehow contrived to score only one goal in winning the match.
On top of all this it has been revealed that a small group of Liverpool fans plan to fly a banner over the ground during this match to call for the sacking of the Northern Irishman.
While he may not be under pressure from those within the club, there is no doubt some dissenting voices are starting to be raised about the job Rodgers is doing this season. Speaking ahead of this game, Rodgers himself suggested he isn’t worried.
‘The owners have been brilliant,’ said Rodgers.
“The only people who matter to me are the people here at the club, the players and supporters. You become a manager and know the criticism will come. Whether it is deserved or not you take it.
‘Tom spoke to me and straight away they see the courage in playing a different team and younger players and how I have dealt with my situation here. They have always been supportive, great for me.”
His team go into this game having not beaten Chelsea in a Premier League fixture since May 2012, a game in which Chelsea were looking forward to the Champions League final and not fully concentrated on the task in hand. Now would be a good time for Rodgers to change that stat, and he’ll have to do so with a team that is seemingly struggling for form and confidence.
Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert are yet to score a Premier League goal for Liverpool, and until one of them can break their duck and start contributing some goals, it’s hard to see where the goals are going to come from. Is it now time for Rodgers to change from his lone frontman system that he’s employed this season, and play both men up front? Can he afford to against a team as strong as Chelsea are in midfield?
Jose Mourinho’s men are coming off the back of a disappointing 1-1 draw in Maribor on Wednesday night. Chelsea came from behind in that game and find themselves still unbeaten after 16 games in all competitions. Quite a start to the season, and when you consider that they’ve won 13 of those 16, and had three 1-1 draws, it looks even more impressive.
The two games they’ve drawn in the Premier League have been away to both Manchester clubs, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a similar kind of scoreline tomorrow. Mourinho, one feels, would happily take a draw in the big away games and be confident his team can win the return fixture at Stamford Bridge.
The only spanner in the works could be the mood around the club at Liverpool. If Liverpool start brightly and can get the crowd on their side they could have a chance, but a repeat of last year’s performance when they allowed themselves to become frustrated by Chelsea’s time wasting tactics would be catastrophic.
Rodgers claimed that Liverpool have learned from last year’s game against Chelsea and this is the chance to show it. They may not have enough firepower for the win, but if they can keep it tight, a draw is on the cards.
Liverpool 1 – 1 Chelsea
Gavin Bergin, Pundit Arena