A TIME FOR HEROES
It’s becoming almost an annual event isn’t it? Chelsea head to Anfield for the third time in four years for a Champions League semi-final on Tuesday night, with just a two-legged encounter standing between the Blues and a first ever final appearance in Europe’s premier club competition. Needless to say, the last two semis against Rafa Benitez’s side haven’t really gone to plan, however, this time around the first leg will be played on Merseyside, meaning a decent result there will set us up nicely for the return leg at the Bridge one week after. With so much at stake, and after such a strange campaign, getting past Liverpool (the self-proclaimed Kings of Europe) could well be on this season, banishing a history of phantom goals, tactical blunders, and penalty heartache. Anyone else getting just a tiny bit optimistic? Having only just come back from Liverpool-and a Thursday night win over their rivals Everton-we cross Stanley Park to visit Anfield with only a few injury worries to contend with. Didier Drogba has been out for a couple of games recently with the sulks-I mean, a knee injury-while Michael Ballack reportedly has a slight hamstring injury. Michael Essien was treated for exhaustion against Everton but misses out this game anyway due to suspension. Frank Lampard could return to the side after taking some time out because of his mother’s illness.
Rafa Benitez meanwhile is either a worried man or a master of kidology, as news begins to filter through concerning captain (and half of Liverpool’s two-man team) Steven Gerrard. The midfielder allegedly has a neck injury which saw him ruled out of Liverpool’s weakened side’s 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday. The Reds are missing defender Daniel Agger and the perennially injured Harry Kewell, both have long-term problems. Benitez often makes big changes to his side, game by game, but a few names always seem to crop up, so expect to see the likes of Javier Mascherano, Lucas, Ryan Babel, and of course, Fernando Torres (the other half of Liverpool’s two-man team).
Promisingly, the official UEFA booking list has James (sic) Carragher, Steven George Gerrard, and Fabio Aurelio just one yellow card away from missing the second-leg. Where’s Eidur Gudjohnsen when you need him?
We have already played Liverpool three times this season and are unbeaten against them in this campaign. The most recent result was a dull (what an understatement) goalless draw at Stamford Bridge back in February in the Premier League, while we beat them 2-0 in the League Cup in December.
Expect more of the former rather than the latter this Tuesday, as the last six Champions League meetings between the two sides have yielded a massive, erm, three goals. It will be boring, it will be nervy, but hopefully, it will be our night. We have the second leg to look forward to if the unthinkable happens, but putting Liverpool on the back foot would be the ideal statement of intent. It’s time to dethrone the Kings.
Prediction: As I said, dull, dull, dull, and that’s saying something considering how we have been playing for the last few months. We have to just keep it tight at the back, and not gamble on the possibility of an away goal too much. The second leg is always there, and that’s where we will probably show our credentials. I’m going for a 0-0, the obvious choice!