Chelsea v Liverpool
Stamford Bridge, London
20th November 2011, 4pm GMT
Referee: Lee Probert
Racism rows have plagued both sides of late but this hotly-anticipated clash at Stamford Bridge will be at the forefront of everyone’s minds as both teams take to the field come Sunday tea-time.
With the international break finally on a back-burner, there will be an inevitable shift in priorities as club football returns to hog the limelight. Normal service will resume with Chelsea the host, with Liverpool travelling down south to partake in Matchday 12 of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures.
Dalglish’s men, on par with Arsenal on 19 points and 6th in the table, will be hoping to ramp up the pressure on other teams perched above the chasing pack. Having been held to a drab goalless draw in their previous league outing against Swansea, Liverpool will go to Stamford Bridge with the sole intention of winning by displaying what they are capable of as a collective.
It has been a rather roller-coaster ride for the Reds this season. The recent FA charge against Luis Suarez for racism has put a dampener on the surroundings around Melwood, but the Uruguayuan will plead “not guilty” with Liverpool remaining fully behind their embattled star-striker.
After a rather bright and encouraging start, Liverpool have faded, picking up on board 3 consecutive home draws, which in truth, could, and should have been wins. With the games coming thick and fast over the festive period, Chelsea will represent the first test of Liverpool’s top four credentials this season.
Meanwhile, over at London, it hasn’t been exactly plain, smooth sailing for Chelsea either. With Turkey wielding the axe on Hiddink after failing to guide the country to the Euro 2012 Finals, Villas-Boas will be under pressure to deliver a result this Sunday, with his charges already twelve points adrift of league leaders Manchester City.
Over the past month, John Terry has had to contend with a police investigation for alleged racism. On top of a charge against manager Villas-Boas for improper conduct, Chelsea were also fined £20,000 for failing to control their players after their 1-0 reversal at QPR. To compound matters further, having lost three games this season, it hasn’t been exactly the start Chelsea had envisioned it to be.
It is perhaps apt that the clash has indeed been billed as “must win” as both sides look to rev their engines and kickstart their seasons in earnest. Will Fernando Torres rediscover his scoring touch and punish his former club? Or can Chelsea stem the possible tide of Liverpool’s attcks, with Suarez leading the line? These questions will remain unanswered till kick-off at the Bridge.
Carragher is back in contention to lead the Reds side out after not featuring over the past 2 League games due to injury, with Gerrard the sole Liverpool player currently on the treatment table due to an ankle infection. At Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, Villas-Boas has reported that Essien remains the only absentee. Strikers Drogba and Sturridge are fit for the clash this Sunday.
Probable starting XIs
Chelsea: Cech; Bosingwa, Terry (C), Ivanovic, Ashley Cole; Mikel, Lampard, Meireles; Mata, Torres, Sturridge (4-3-3)
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Carragher (C) , Agger, Enrique; Kuyt, Adam, Lucas, Downing; Bellamy, Suarez (4-4-2)
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This post also appeared on my Liverpool blog, The Spion Kop. Click here to visit.