07 May 2012

Liverpool v Chelsea 05.08.12

3pm ET, live in the US on FSC

Last four head-to-head:
1-2 Chelsea (n; FA Cup) 05.05.12
2-0 Liverpool (a; League Cup) 11.29.11
2-1 Liverpool (a) 11.20.11
1-0 Liverpool (a) 02.06.11

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-2 Chelsea (n); 0-1 Fulham (h); 3-0 Norwich (a)
Chelsea: 2-1 Liverpool (n); 0-2 Newcastle (h); 6-1 QPR (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 11; Bellamy 6; Gerrard 5; Carroll, Maxi 4; Adam, Kuyt, Skrtel 2; Coates, Henderson, Johnson 1
Chelsea: Lampard, Sturridge 11; Mata, Torres 6; Drogba, Terry 5; Ramires 4; Ivanovic 3; Luiz, Malouda 2; Boswinga, Cahill, Kalou, Meireles 1

Referee: Kevin Friend

Guess at a line-up:
Kelly Carragher Coates Robinson
Henderson Gerrard Shelvey Downing
Carroll Suarez

It's not wholly meaningless, especially considering the opposition. Admittedly, no Liverpool match is ever "meaningless" to most fans, but I imagine you understand the feeling at this stage of the season. Anyway, Saturday's cup final defeat is very fresh in the memory and revenge is one of nature's best motivators. At least that's the hope. Plus, a point or three here could well be the difference between 7th, 8th, 9th, or 10th – ultimately unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but still meaningful to the players, manager, and fans. But it's still kind of meaningless. Sigh.

Regardless, it's not as if we'll see a full-strength side or, conversely, an XI packed with kids. It'll probably be a mix of both. That worked well against Fulham last week.

So who seems certain? Carroll, definitely, after his near match-saving performance on Saturday, most likely partnered with Suarez. And Carroll most likely means 4-4-2. Of course, Liverpool remain handicapped for options in central midfield and the flanks. Will Kuyt and Maxi get Anfield send-offs or will Liverpool play players likely to be here next season? Does Gerrard start or will Liverpool shut him down early because of the Euros this summer? Will Spearing really play after his last two appearances? Finally, as much as we'd like to see Sterling start, he's 1000% more likely to come off the bench, and rightfully so.

Even if it's not his last campaign, Carragher will probably get an Anfield swan song, hopefully partnered with Coates for the final two matches, allowing Skrtel and Agger a deserved early summer. Aurelio got his swan song last week against Fulham; it'd be nice to see Robinson for the first time since his two appearances in the early rounds of the Carling Cup. Last week's match against Fulham thoroughly demonstrated Kelly's rustiness, and Johnson's another likely to have a busy summer. It also might be a match for Jones or Doni, as Reina didn't do himself justice on either of Chelsea's goals on Saturday, which has frighteningly been a recurring theme this season.

Chelsea ostensibly have more motivation, needing the points in the small hope of fourth, but also needing Newcastle, Tottenham, and Arsenal to drop points on the last day to achieve it. Even if Chelsea's eggs are mostly in the Champions League basket, I suspect they'll still play a mostly strong line-up tomorrow. There will obviously be some changes. In contrast to Saturday's entirely more important match, I expect both ex-Liverpool players will start: Torres up front and Meireles as one of the two deeper midfielders. Options are still limited in defense due to Cahill and Luiz's injuries, so the only changes likely in the back four are the full-backs possibly spelled by Ferreira and Bertrand. Otherwise, their XI is as much of a guess as Liverpool's.

That Liverpool are facing Chelsea is some small comfort. We've seen how bad Liverpool can be when simply going through the motions in an unimportant league match, whether against Fulham last week or Spurs and Villa in the last two matches last season. Or a bunch of other league matches since, say, March.

And we all know the litany of records Liverpool will probably "beat" no matter the outcome of this last home match: fewest home goals and home wins in something like a century, and the lowest league position since Souness' doomed regime, among others. Nonetheless, beating Chelsea tomorrow would provide some small measure of consolation as we begin to repress the memory of this dismal campaign.

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