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)
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
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.