It’s that time of the year again for Chelsea FC; the time when we make our annual trip to Anfield in the Champions League.
This will be the 9th time that we’ve met Liverpool in the Champions League since 2004. In the previous 8 matches, Chelsea’s record is 2 wins, 2 losses, 4 draws, 2 semi-final losses in 2005, 1-0 on aggregate and 2007 (1-1 on aggregate, 4-2 on penalties), and 1 semi-final win in 2008 (4-3 on aggregate).
Quite simply, these two teams have a quite a history between them so expect the match to be a cagey affair.
From a tactical standpoint, under Guus Hiddink, our approach has been slightly different. The tempo has been increased and the fitness of the squad seems to be a bit better. He has set the team in a similar fashion to the way Mourinho did, with one notable exception: the attack seems to take a “total football” approach with players interchanging positions often, resulting in shorter passes. Hiddink also likes to use the deeper midfielders to create the passes. Look for us to take our time with our buildup play and look to score at least a goal. Another key is injuries. Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba are doubtful for the match and that will make our approach more conservative.
The key to the match for Chelsea is to attack Liverpool and get an away goal. As usual, the away goal is key in a two-legged tie, and this season should be no different. However, I believe that we should look to score 2 at Anfield, as Liverpool will feel that they can score at Stamford Bridge after ending our home unbeaten streak this season.
Key Man For Chelsea:
Didier Drogba. Quite simply, if he’s fit, he will give the Liverpool CB’s Skrtel and Carragher fits. Skrtel can’t match the pace of Drogba. Carragher can’t match the strength. As we saw last season against Liverpool, Drogba fit and motivated will give the Liverpool CB’s fits.
I think that we will see typical Rafa Benitez tactics here. Say what you will about Benitez tactics in the league, but in Europe in a knockout scenario, he usually gets them spot on. He’s become one of the hardest managers to outclass tactically over two legs.
Tactically speaking, Liverpool rely on 3 things: The vision and distribution of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, the endeavour and intelligence of Steven Gerrard, and the pace and anticipation of Fernando Torres. They will play Gerrard as a second striker behind Torres and will use him as the playmaker in the attack.
I have a feeling that he will look to play on the counter at home. I believe Liverpool feel as if they have the better team this season and will have no problem taking a 0-0 result to London.
The key for Liverpool is that they must not let us score. Away goals mean a lot and I believe that Liverpool feel that if they keep a clean sheet, they can beat us in the 2nd leg.
Key Man for Liverpool:
Yossi Benayoun. We know how dependant Liverpool are on Gerrard and Torres, but it’s been Benayoun that has provided the engine the season. It’s no coincidence that Benayoun scored the winner at Fulham this past weekend. His style of play might not be flashy, but he does all the little things as a starter or off the bench that are needed.
Frank Lampard vs Steven Gerrard. The battle of the number 8’s. Everything that Liverpool wants to do goes through Gerrard as an attacking midfielder Likewise, this season, Lampard has become the key man to building the attack and defending as a true box to box midfielder. Whichever player can stamp his authority on the match could turn the match in his team’s favor.
The biggest thing that we must overcome in this match is the belief of the Liverpool squad. Right now, they feel as if they can’t be beaten and will fight for the full 90 minutes. We have the quality to win this match, but we need to play smart. That means limiting Gerrard’s touches and the supply to Torres, and unsettling the CB’s of Liverpool. If we can pull apart Carragher and Skrtel, we can score against them. I honestly see this as a1-1 draw. Another typical cagey European tie with Liverpool.
Final Interesting Factoid:
Did you know that since Jose Mourinho took over in 2004, that Chelsea and Liverpool have met a total of 22 times in all competitions? 10 times in the Premier League, 8 times in the Champions League, 2 times in the Carling Cup, 1 in the FA Cup, and 1 in the Community Shield. Our record? 9 wins, 7 losses, 6 draws.