24 April 2007

Liverpool at Chelsea 04.25.07

2:45pm. Available live in the US on espn2.

Champions League Group Stage results:
Liverpool: 2-3 Galatasaray (a); 2-0 PSV (h); 3-0 Bordeaux (h); 1-0 Bordeaux (a); 3-2 Gala (h); 0-0 PSV (a)
Chelsea: 2-0 Levski (h); 0-1 Bremen (a); 2-2 Barca (a); 1-0 Barca (h); 3-1 Levski (a); 2-0 Bremen (h)

1st Knockout Round results:
Liverpool: 0-1 Barca (h); 2-1 Barca (a)
Chelsea: 2-1 Porto (h); 1-1 Porto (a)

Quarterfinal results:
Liverpool: 1-0 PSV (h); 3-0 PSV (a)
Chelsea: 2-1 Valencia (a); 1-1 Valencia (h)

Goal scorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Crouch 7; Garcia, Gerrard 3; Bellamy, Fowler, Riise 2; Gonzalez 1
Chelsea: Drogba 6; Shevchenko 3; Ballack, Essien 2; Lampard, Robben, Wright-Phillips 1

European History:
Liverpool: European Cup/Champions League 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005; UEFA Cup 1973, 1976, 2001; UEFA Super Cup 1977, 2001, 2005
Chelsea: Cup Winners’ Cup 1971, 1998; UEFA Super Cup 1998

Referee: Markus Merk (GER)

My guess of a lineup:
Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Arbeloa
Gerrard, Mascherano, Sissoko Alonso, Riise

Formatting on the internet doesn’t do this line-up justice, but admittedly, it’s a very defensive one.

But with the game at Stamford Bridge, and given Chelsea’s recent run, I hope that Benitez does pack the midfield, giving Chelsea a lot less room to operate and hopefully less room to do any damage.

Not only do I expect Sissoko to reclaim his place in the side, but also to return to the form that he’s been so lauded for. This is the type of game he excels in. Even though Ballack will miss out due to injury, it's worth mentioning that Momo absolutely owned him during the Community Shield as well, although admittedly, that was also 8 months ago. But him combined with Mascherano and Alonso in the middle, with Gerrard given license to roam, and Riise, who always seems to do well against Chelsea, seems to give Liverpool the best chance of keeping Chelsea from getting into any rhythm.

I’m up in the air over Pennant though. He was one of Liverpool’s best against Chelsea in January, and has been one of the most consistent and dangerous players recently, but he has seen a full 90 minutes in the last two games and is one yellow away from a ban. Seems he’ll be needed much more in the game at Anfield, where Liverpool will have to score, as well.

As usual, the back four writes pretty much writes itself. I love Hyypia, but Drogba’s run circles around him in the past, and both Carra and Agger are quicker and better able to deal with him and either Sheva or Kalou. Finnan’s fit again after a neck injury, but Arbeloa's inclusion also seems necessary. If Wright-Phillips plays, I’ll be marginally worried how Arbeloa will cope with a player who will want to stay wide on that side, but Alvaro should be more adjusted to playing on the left side of defense than he was when he went up against Guily as a sub in the Barca tie.

For Chelsea, Essien will miss out, serving a one-match ban. Cech, Joe Cole, Diarra, Lampard, and Robben are all a yellow away from suspension. Ballack’s injured as well, but Carvalho, who had been a doubt, trained today. That’s two or three key players missing for the Blues, and even more who will have their status in the back of their minds, but their roster will still read like a murderer’s row. Joe Cole, recently back from long-term problems, specifically frightens me. If he lines up on the left, both Gerrard and Finnan must deny him space to create the tricks he so loves.

Not much motivation needs to be written as a closing. It’s Chelsea. In the semifinals of the Champions League. Again.

I cannot wait until tomorrow.

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