Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Champions League Preview: Chelsea vs Liverpool

By Gareth Freeman

If ever there was a definition for an ‘uphill task’ it would have to be this game. Stranger things have happened though and Liverpool’s Champions League dream is not over yet, I’m not going to be betting on them going through but bigger comebacks have been staged and if anyone is capable of a pulling it off it is Rafa’s side.

Before the weekend no one had scored three goals against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge but then Bolton came to town. Granted the Wanderers went 4-0 down before they managed to get their own three goals but it goes too show the Chelski defence is not impenetrable. Liverpool managed to put four past Blackburn themselves and all without Steven Gerrard, Blackburn are by no means the same standard as Chelsea but that game will certainly have given the Reds a boost.

The key to Chelsea’s victory in the last game was Michael Essien man-marking Gerrard, I expect the same to happen again and if Liverpool are too upset the betting odds and progress they’re going to need to combat Essien. If Gerrard is given a free-role and Essien follows him around the pitch I’m sure Rafa will have thought of some way of dealing with it, Benitez is a great tactician and I’m fairly sure he won’t be caught by the same trick twice.

Liverpool might have to rely on other players to create and get forward if Gerrard is marked out the game. Yossi Benayoun is a player who is capable of delivering on the big occasions and he could be the man to ignite Liverpool’s comeback. I’ve been really impressed by the Israeli since the turn of the year and his winner against Fulham in the dying stages showed how well he copes under pressure. Having Mascherano back will also be a massive boost for Liverpool and he was sorely missed in the first leg, hopefully he’ll be able to contain the Chelsea attack as Liverpool can’t afford to concede more than one goal.

Needless to say Liverpool do face a daunting task of having too score three goals at Stamford Bridge. The earlier they can put one away the better and it will set up a great game. My worry is that Chelsea will line up to defend and stop Liverpool going forward rather than attack themselves and just close the game off for the whole 90 minutes. One thing is for sure though, everyone will have to be at the top of their game if Liverpool are too make it through to the semi final stage.

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