RAFA’S ROADSHOW TO VISIT THE BRIDGE
With recent news filtering through the footballing grapevine concerning a controversial proposal for Premier League games to be played overseas in the not so distant future, it is comforting to know that for now, nobody can take us away from our home. Stamford Bridge is where we play our home games, and it should stay that way.
Our 75 game unbeaten home record was not achieved by playing games in Tokyo and Miami, it is sacred to the fortress that is SW6. Teams are afraid of visiting the Bridge, we have built up a formidable reputation and the opposition rarely leaves the Fulham Road happy. So, while we’re still playing English Premier League games in England, we must continue our legacy. Starting on Sunday with Liverpool.
The previous owners of an impressive unbeaten record at home before we came along to make history, Liverpool have been regular visitors to the Bridge over recent years due to regular league encounters and plentiful cup draws. The pre-match talk has been preferential for Chelsea, particularly concerning Liverpool’s team news, but more of that later.
The Blues’ own squad is looking strong, with no players suspended, only slight injuries to report of, and the African Cup of Nations boys set to return after Saturday’s 3rd place play-off (the game no player ever wants to play in). John Mikel Obi is already back following Nigeria’s premature exit, while Ricardo Carvalho returns from suspension. Inspirational pair Frank Lampard and John Terry are also nearing full fitness, with the former possibly featuring in the match-day 16, while Andriy Shevchenko is also on his way back. With big names returning, it will be interesting to see whether or not Avram Grant keeps faith with certain “squad players”, or puts the big guns straight back into action at the first opportunity.
Meanwhile, struggling Liverpool have received a blow ahead of the game, with Fernando Torres almost certainly out of the game. If Steven Gerrard picks up a knock between now and Sunday, Rafael Benitez will basically be left without a team! Andriy Voronin, Fabio Aurelio, Alvaro Arbeloa and Daniel Agger are also missing through injury, while Xabi Alonso is suspended. The Reds are fighting it out for fourth place, and any point is valuable for them at this stage of the season, particularly as they sit 17 points off the top. Any point is valuable for them at this stage of the season, particularly as they sit 17 points off the top. No, you’re not reading this wrong, it’s just nice to point out how bad they are sometimes!
The sides met at the beginning of the season, with a very contentious penalty decision handing Lampard the chance to grab an equaliser. He obliged, the Scousers moaned, and their season was as good as over right there and then. A meeting at the Bridge in the Carling Cup saw Chelsea go one better, with goals from Lampard (again) and Shevchenko in a 2-0 win, memorable not only for that scoreline, but also the ridiculous, wild challenge from Peter Crouch on Mikel which saw the striker pick up a petulant red card early in the second-half. The last time Liverpool won at Stamford Bridge was way back in 2004, but we’ll conveniently forget about that shall we?
With Liverpool floundering in fifth, suffering board-room politics and inconsistency, we must take advantage. This is the first of our home games against the other members of the so-called “big four”, and it should be the first win of a late surge towards the top of the table. We have been very good against them in the league in recent years, and it’s time to continue the trend. Remember the 4-1 at Anfield anyone? More of the same please Avram.
Prediction: It has to be a win! We can put the Scousers in their rightful place, and make more history rather than live off it. Lampard is a particular nemesis of Liverpool, but I think Joe Cole could be key, as ‘Pool fans I have spoken to really seem to fear his lively influence. I’m going for a 2-0 win to quieten the alleged “best fans in the World” and send Liverpool further into mid-table mediocrity.