Was I the only neutral who fought off sleep during the game?
Over the course of 210 minutes – that’s 3 and a half hours for you – two teams, one that has won two back to back Premiership titles and the other that was supposedly their biggest rivals this season, failed to entertain. It’s not a good advert for beautiful football, but does it really matter, now that Liverpool are in the Champions League final for the second time in 3 years?
The biggest story of this season will be a grudging acceptance of Liverpool’s right to be in the top echelon of Europe. A lot of us (including myself) called Liverpool’s 2005 campaign a bit of a fluke, this season will be hard to call the same. They beat Barcelona and Chelsea, and to top it off there have been no goal controversies to give the opposition any ammunition.
Chelsea’s luck ran out a few games ago, and they’ve been suffering since. The mini-slump – two draws against Newcastle and Bolton and now a semi-final defeat – has effectively ended their season unless they can beat Arsenal and Manchester City can beat Manchester United on the weekend. The combined odds of that outcome happening are low.
Liverpool now have a dream final no matter who they face. In AC Milan it will be a reprise of Istanbul 2005, and this time you feel that Liverpool will be a lot stronger and could win a bit more convincingly. In Manchester United it will be revisiting one of the fiercest rivalries in the Premiership transported to Europe’s main stage, and you can bet your house that it will be bloody entertaining.
Liverpool’s goal (Agger)
Second Leg Preview
Can Chelsea survive the Anfield roar? Will Mourinho cry foul at Anfield’s 12th man’s support? Can Liverpool actually repeat their 2-0 January result and go to the Champions League final for the 2nd time in 3 years?
Depending on which side you hear, anything is possible.
The majority of football fans are looking at Chelsea’s 1-0 lead, and their history, and think that Liverpool can’t overturn them. I’m inclined to agree. Chelsea are likely to score in every game they play, and with a one goal advantage, if Chelsea score Liverpool will have to put through 3 goals in 90 minutes.
Do you see Liverpool doing that? As a neutral, I don’t. I do see both sides scoring goals, but 3 goals even at home against Chelsea may be a big ask. Chelsea haven’t won the last two Premierships and pushed United to the very end this season as a fluke – they’re a strong side and despite Carvalho’s, Ballack’s and Sheva’s absences, they should be strong enough to not concede 3 goals.
Chelsea vs Liverpool might not be pretty football for the neutral, but with so many talented players on the pitch something magical is bound to happen (no, not that kind of magic) – and in the first leg it was Drogba’s run that set Joe Cole up for a tap in.
Speaking of the first leg, a lot of people said that Chelsea looked tired – I’d say that Chelsea did as much as was necessary and then focused on containment. At Anfield, Chelsea know that they need to score once and after that they can contain and play on the counter.
Liverpool’s chances of winning lie in Gerrard’s and Crouchie’s hands – and I fully expect those two to turn up and deliver. Liverpool are fresher, focused and Rafa Benitez always managed to gee up their motivation several notches when it comes to the Champions League.
Before the first leg, Mourinho said that he would have been sacked if he had been as unsuccessful as Benitez in the Premiership. Benitez has came back this time and said that with all the money spent on the Chelsea squad, the pressure to win is far greater on Chelsea than it is on Liverpool. Of course, he’s right 🙂
No players are suspended, but several players are on yellow cards and would miss the next match (the final, potentially) if they got a yellow card:
Liverpool: Javier Mascherano, Jermaine Pennant
Chelsea: Michael Ballack, Joe Cole, Lassana Diarra, Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben
Chelsea vs Liverpool – Match Details
First leg played at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, 25th April, Chelsea won 1-0.
Second leg to be played at Anfield on Tuesday, 1st May.
Both games will start at 19:45 GMT.
Match reports plus goal videos will be up for each leg the next morning.
Chelsea have played the most games of the season in the Premiership and it is a testament to the players’ mental strength that the side is still in the hunt for the quadruple. To add to it, Chelsea have had to deal with the public inquest into the Mourinho-Abramovich rift and the subsequent rumours of Mourinho’s departure.
The fatigue will have an effect on Chelsea, but with Terry / Cech back, Mourinho’s sole worry will be in keeping their players out of the referee’s notebook.
Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Lassana Diarra, Arjen Robben and Drogba
Didier Drogba, Joe Cole and Lassana Diara are one yellow card away from suspensions. With Ballack and Robben injured, and Carvalho a doubt (although he trained on Tuesday and without Essien playing (suspended) Mourinho will do everything he can to play him), things are tough for Chelsea.
But as is the case with Mourinho, when things get tough, he gets going. He has outdone himself this time – talking about old controversies and what not, picking holes in Rafa’s tactics and methods with scant regard for his own. The worst part was his statement that Liverpool would try to get his players booked. For me, whether it’s true or not, it’s an extremely irresponsible thing to say and it only serves to heighten the tension during the game.
But then again, that’s how Chelsea work – they need to be strongly pushed, mentally and physically, to play well. You can be guaranteed that Chelsea will come out of the blocks charging, looking to score a couple of quick goals.
Chelsea vs Liverpool has been very interesting over the last 3 years. Liverpool knocked them out at this stage 2 years ago thanks to a controversial goal, they drew the two group stage matches last season and finished behind Liverpool in second place (thus getting picked to face Barcelona in the second round and exiting the Champions League a bit early).
This season, Chelsea lost the Community Shield, won at Stamford Bridge but capitulated at Anfield.
Liverpool have the easier build up to the game but that shouldn’t be too much of an advantage – despite Liverpool’s ability to match Chelsea toe to toe in recent games, they’re not a better side player for player. It will take a special team effort – and something special from Rafa – for Liverpool to beat Chelsea (just as it would take something special for Chelsea to beat Liverpool).
Liverpool have, in the last couple of years, managed to raise their game when they play Chelsea – whether they can do it again and whether Rafa can outwit Mourinho remains to be seen.
Let’s hope that the tie is decided cleanly without controversial decisions or penalty shootouts.
If Liverpool follow the same tactics they used against Barcelona, they’ll defend deep and their main goal is going to be to get the away goal.
The only difference is, Chelsea won’t self-destruct. Liverpool will be pushed to the limit, mentally and physical, to win this game.
It’s tough to pick a winner between the two – both sides have their weaknesses and strengths.
However, Liverpool do have an advantage with the second leg being at Anfield and the fact that the players will be fresher. Incidentally, Chelsea have to play Arsenal at the Emirates a few days after playing Liverpool at Anfield and then host United at Stamford Bridge. Those games could pretty much decide Chelsea’s season.
As a United fan, I know that I’d rather play Liverpool than Chelsea in the final (if we get there) – in a one-off game, Chelsea’s ability to win at the death is very dangerous.
What do you guys think?