06 November 2010

Liverpool v Chelsea 11.07.10

11am ET, live in the US on FSC.

Last four head-to-head:
0-2 Chelsea (h) 05.02.10
0-2 Chelsea (a) 10.04.09
4-4 (a; CL) 04.14.09
1-3 Chelsea (h; CL) 04.08.09

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 Napoli (h); 1-0 Bolton (a); 2-1 Blackburn (h)
Chelsea: 4-1 Spartak (h); 2-1 Blackburn (a); 2-0 Wolves (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Gerrard 3; Kyrgiakos, Torres 2; Kuyt, Maxi, Ngog 1
Bolton: Malouda 7; Drogba 6; Kalou 5; Anelka 3; Essien 2; Alex, Benayoun, Ivanovic, Lampard 1

Referee: Howard Webb

Yep. Him again.

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Carragher Kyrgiakos Konchesky
Meireles Lucas
Kuyt Gerrard Maxi

Barely three weeks after Kuyt injured ankle ligaments, initially feared to be out until 2011, the Dutchman seems likely to come back into the side. He's an absolute cyborg; the Six Million Dollar Man has nothing on Dirk. And he'll be more than needed against the league's strongest side, especially with Joe Cole out. Both Kuyt and last week's late goal-scorer Maxi can man either flank, although Maxi's more comfortable on the left.

I don't know who to suggest if Kuyt's unavailable, as I'd really rather not see Meireles on the right – especially since that'd probably mean Poulsen would start in the center – and both Pacheco and Jovanovic appear out of favor. 4-4-2 with Torres and Ngog up top also seems unlikely, even though the young Frenchman's done well when asked this season, as we saw how easily that formation can be torn asunder by top teams when Liverpool traveled to City. That Liverpool are at Anfield mean we should see more ambition and creativity, but the battle in midfield will still be where the match is won.

The other big line-up question is in central defense now that Johnson's healthy. Does Hodgson go with slow and steady – with Kyrgiakos' threat on set plays – or the marginally quicker Skrtel? We know Carragher's not being dropped.

Lucas and Meireles have to start in midfield, Gerrard should continue to play behind the striker – hopefully as hungry as he was against Napoli – and Torres has scored four goals in the four home matches where he's faced Chelsea, only drawing a blank in the infamous Riise OG match in 2008 and unavailable for last May's 0-2 loss. But Liverpool also haven't beaten Chelsea in their last four meetings.

Perpetually supremely confident, Ancelotti named his team in yesterday's press conference, revealing that game-time decisions will be made over Malouda and Essien's participation. "I can give you nine men: Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Zhirkov, Anelka, Drogba. Malouda or Kalou, Essien or Ramires." Lampard's still not available after undergoing hernia surgery at the end of August.

Chelsea weren't at their best against Wolves or Blackburn but still got the win. Those struggles, combined with a draw at Villa and loss at City, have been magnified by enormous wins to open the season, scoring six, six, and four against West Brom, Wigan, and Blackpool. But Chelsea were always going to fall back to Earth. And by 'fall back to Earth,' I obviously mean 'still lead the league by five points after only 10 games.' All season they've looked the Premiership's best, and are deservedly favorites to retain their title.

It goes without saying that Liverpool need to continue to build upon their three-match winning streak and the improved play we've seen of late. And it also goes without saying that this'll be the toughest test since Liverpool's improvement.


drew said...

Terrified for this one. Almost perfectly calculated to exploit Roy's insecurities—scared of getting run off the pitch straight away, I imagine he'll want to "keep the shape" for the first half at least, leaving plenty of room for Cole and Ivanovic. Not looking forward to Drogba/Anelka against our leaden backline, nor to Terry crashing in on our supposed man marking.

Regardless, the worry of a game like Napoli—hell, a run of games like we've had lately—is that it's so flattering; we really haven't played that well apart from one storming stretch from Gerrard (exploiting indecision he won't be getting against Chelsea) and that one moment of brilliance from Nando. He'll have to actually get some service in this one if we're to do anything; would be a huge, huge boost if Essien weren't available.

dARkDevX said...

The result of tomorrow's game is unimportant. Rather, it's the next 4 matches after which will greatly shape our season. Anything other than at least 10 points from those will have us in dire straits.

Currently, we're lying in 16th two points from the relegation zone and to be frank there's not that much optimism going into the game against the league leaders. So irrespective of the result on Sunday, Roy's musn't drop the ball on the upcoming ones.

Ash said...

Your predicted line up has a lot more balance to it with Kuyt in for Cole. I get sick of seeing Meireles moved wide, I think if he plays centrally Liverpool have more of a chance.
Johnson's pace will be important to cope with Cole and also to give Chelsea something to worry about at the other end. The other positive I think is that Lucas and Gerrard have been in pretty good form lately.
If Mikel plays, there might be a chance for Liverpool to win as he has looked a bit fatigued lately.
Should be a great game and if I had to predict, I would say a 1-1 draw.