You could almost see it coming. Of course the Champions League draw was simply filled with teams who evoked memories of glorious encounters from days gone by. Whether it was Arsenal last year, or Barcelona in 2007 or Porto en route to the UEFA Cup in 2001, or Bayern Munich in 1981, there was a story to be had in the Champions League draw.
But when some wise guy at UEFA mentioned the words “Liverpool FC”, and the words “Chelsea FC” shortly after one another, it was a case of “here we go again”. Deja Vu doesn’t even come into it.
This Quarter Final clash will, quite incredibly, be the ninth and tenth time that the sides have met in the Champions League in the last five seasons. The records make for interesting reading too. Liverpool wins- two. Chelsea wins- two. Draws- four. With the teams locked together on 61 points in the Premier League, there quite simply is nothing to choose between them.
Chelsea have enjoyed a sort-of-renaissance under Dutch manager Guus Hiddink, although I still remain unconvinced that he has managed any results that his predecessor- Luiz Felipe Scolari- could not have. With Michael Essien back flying, and Didier Drogba awaking from his early season slumber to offer a renewed threat up front, the Londoners will be a force to reckon with. It is unlikely we will see the insipid displays offered up in the two league meetings between the sides this season for example.
But with Rafa Benitez signing a new contract this week, and Manchester United following Real Madrid in picking up a hefty beating at Liverpool’s hands, the Reds have no reason to fear anyone. Of course the likes of Porto, Villarreal, even Arsenal, would have been a more favourable draw, and the fact that the second leg will be played at Stamford Bridge is not ideal, but to be the best, you invariably have to beat the best. Accordingly, Liverpool will face the winner of the intriguing Barcelona/Bayern Munich tie in the semi final should they negotiate another all-English battle.
Predictions? It would be daft to make predictions at this stage. Injuries and form can change an outlook in an instant, whilst this fixture in recent seasons has proven almost impossible to pick. There has been one constant of course, games have tended to be uber-tight and competitive, and fine margins (Luis Garcia’s goal, John Arne Riise’s gaffe) have tended to prove decisive.
Here’s hoping the ninth and tenth time proves lucky for Liverpool.