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Champions League Preview: Liverpool favourites as Chelsea bank on quality



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Liverpool v Chelsea, Semifinal, 2007/2008 Champions League

First Leg:
Anfield, Liverpool – Tuesday 22 April 2008 – 19:45 GMT

Second Leg:
Stamford Bridge, London – Wednesday 30 April 2008 – 19:45 GMT


This annual Champions League tie (3rd semi-final between two sides in 4 years) is often billed as a contest between old and new, established and imposing, equal parts tactics and intense drama.

The last two meetings are better known for their match-deciding crucial moments (a few seconds every 200 minutes or so, on average) than for the quality of football on display. In fact the most entertaining moment for this fixture last season was the comments of one Jorge Valdano when he likened the football on offer with ‘shit hanging from a stick’.

Jokes apart, this is going to be an interesting match-up with plenty of backstories to go along with it. There’s the Grant factor (or the lack of Mourinho factor), there’s the boardroom turmoil at Anfield, there’s one Fernando Torres and there’s history (Chelsea wouldn’t want to be beaten thrice in four years by the same team, let alone beaten a fourth time in five years at the same stage) on both sides (5-times, 5-times Liverpool).

Chelsea View

Many people are casting Grant’s Chelsea as underdogs here – the reasoning goes that since a stronger Chelsea under a better manager couldn’t beat a weaker Liverpool twice, how is the current side going to manage it against a Torres-led Liverpool?

Still, with Grant’s record and with the pedigree of players at Chelsea’s disposal you know they have a good chance of progress. In fact, they might even flourish when the pressure of expectations is off them and on their opponents. They certainly have the players to make it happen.

Liverpool View

Liverpool go into this clash in the relatively new position of being favourites to reach the final. Forget all the embarrassing stuff happening off the pitch – on it, Liverpool have laid a marker this season with their performances against Inter and Arsenal (regardless of referee involvement, Liverpool have been at the very least equal to their opponents) and have a great chance of reaching their third final in four years.

And as Shaun Daley reports, they have the players to get the job done.

Stats View

Head-to-heads in major European Cup competitions (exc. European Super Cup)

Semifinal    Liverpool – Chelsea

UEFA Champions League 27 Apr 2005 Chelsea – Liverpool 0-0
UEFA Champions League 03 May 2005 Liverpool – Chelsea 1-0
UEFA Champions League 28 Sep 2005 Liverpool – Chelsea 0-0
UEFA Champions League 06 Dec 2005 Chelsea – Liverpool 0-0
UEFA Champions League 25 Apr 2007 Chelsea – Liverpool 1-0
UEFA Champions League 01 May 2007 Liverpool – Chelsea 1-0 aps (4-1)
UEFA Champions League 27 Apr 2005 Chelsea – Liverpool 0-0


I backed Mourinho for the last two meetings and he came up short – despite the romantic notion that Grant may spring a surprise my gut says Rafa (unless karma bites back), so Liverpool to win the tie and progress to the final.

Story behind the picture: On the surface, an old fart laughing too hard at a stupid joke made by the rich young dude who pays his wages. Scratching deeper, you see Grant’s positive attitude numbed by the cynicism that surrounds the Chelsea job (in part because of Mourinho himself) and his unease (despite the nonchalance his interviews seem to contain) at taking over Mourinho’s mantle.

If he can’t be Mourinho then he has to be anti-Mourinho – and at the moment he is a pale shadow to both ideals.

In short, an old man laughing too hard at a stupid joke made by the rich young guy paying his wages…Mourinho would have told his own joke, the anti-Mourinho wouldn’t have laughed at all. And that, my friend, is why they Chelsea fans don’t love Grant.