9:30am, live in the US on Setanta
This is the week where daylight saving time screws up the five-hour time difference between the East Coast and the U.K. We get our extra hour of sleep after Saturday, November 1.
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-3 Chelsea (a; CL) 04.30.08
1-1 (h; CL) 04.22.08
0-0 (a) 02.10.08
0-2 Chelsea (a; League Cup) 12.19.07
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Atletico (a); 3-2 Wigan (h); 3-2 City (a)
Chelsea: 1-0 Roma (h); 5-0 Boro (a); 2-0 Villa (h)
Liverpool: Torres 5; Kuyt 3; Babel, Carragher, Gerrard, Riera 1
Chelsea: Anelka 4; Kalou, Lampard 3; Belletti, J Cole, Deco 2; Boswinga, Carvalho, Malouda 1
Referee: Howard Webb
In case the appointment of Howard Webb – who’s usually one of the better officials, and was in charge of the win over United – seems too fortunate for Liverpool, don’t worry. Rob Styles is the fourth official. Yeah, that’s his punishment for blowing yet another penalty call. I can’t believe they’re letting him have anything to do with a Liverpool/Chelsea contest.
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Agger Dossena
Kuyt Gerrard Riera
Guessing the 4-2-3-1 again, because this seems a game tailor-made for it (especially with Torres absent), but Liverpool did end up playing just as much 4-4-1-1 on Wednesday. Of course, one of the benefits of the 4-2-3-1 is its adaptability.
There are still concerns over Keane, but Gerrard, and Alonso have been declared fit after all three were substituted on Wednesday. I’d still wager that the Irishman’s likely to lead the line.
I would imagine we’ll see Degen (or maybe, hopefully, Darby) sooner than later, because Arbeloa’s played every match except Crewe (and has the yellow cards to show it). He's looked tired on more than one occasion, and is committing silly fouls because of it. But I can’t see Benitez blooding Degen or Darby in a match like this unless he’s forced to.
There’s still a worry over the defensive lapses, but I can’t see Hyypia starting in place of Agger either. The way that Liverpool will get rid of these mistakes is by keeping Carra and Agger together so the Dane is given time to get match-fit and the two are allowed to re-establish their partnership from 06-07.
I can't understate how this is an absolutely massive game. Yes, yes, it’s still early, but these are the two teams that have started the campaign the brightest, and have the same number of points atop the league. Chelsea still has an unbeaten home league record stretching back to 2004.
Benitez is right to say that Liverpool will need a flawless 90 minutes to beat the league leaders. Even with a fair few injuries, Chelsea dispatched Boro with ease at the Riverside. Drogba, Essien, Ballack, Joe Cole will all likely miss out, while Ashley Cole should return, but it’s not as if these absences have harmed Chelsea’s campaign so far.
But Liverpool's proven that you can’t overlook them this season, and no deficit seems like it can’t be overturned. But, and I mean this as no slight, going a goal or two down to Chelsea is a fair bit different that against Wigan.
Let’s see those perfect 90 minutes Rafa’s hoping for.