Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Champions League Preview: Liverpool vs Chelsea

By Gareth Freeman

It seems almost as if this fixture is a part of the regular football calendar now, rather than a random draw. This is in fact the eighth time these two teams have met in the Champions League and by now we’re all used to watching these two play out some enthralling ties. Chelsea’s semi-final victory over the Reds last year was a dubious one and I’m sure Liverpool will be keen too even the score this time around. Another stat that might give the Anfield faithful a bit of comfort, in four Champions League meetings at Anfield – Chelsea have scored just one goal.

I don’t think it really matter whether you’re at home in the first or second leg to be honest. The best team over two legs will win, its as simple as that. With Liverpool’s current form they should go into this tie as favourites with the sports betting odds but we all know how good Chelsea can be. Guus Hiddink will have to do without Nicolas Anelka though, the Frenchman has been in fine form this season and his presence will surely be missed by the Stamford Bridge side. Didier Drogba missed Chelsea’s victory over Newcastle at the weekend but it looks as if he will be fit for the game at Anfield. Drogba is without doubt a great player but for me he hasn’t been in top-form this season and if he isn’t fully fit he won’t be at the top of his game.

For me there are three players Liverpool need to really get the better of if they are too beat Chelsea – Frank Lampard, John Terry and Petr Cech. In Lampard Chelsea have a midfielder almost of the standard of Gerrard (ok, not really but he does score the odd cracker). Lampard is Chelsea’s star man and stopping him will be crucial if Liverpool are to progress to the semi-final stage. Terry has already admitted he is ‘dreading’ marking Gerrard and Torres but if there is a centre-half equipped for the task it is John Terry. If he is on top of his game chances will be few and far between but with Torres, Gerrard and Benayoun Liverpool have the players to make the most of even half-chances. Cech is probably the best keeper in the world and beating him is never going to be easy, lets just hope he doesn’t pull off a wonder game.

In the other Champions League tie on Wednesday night Barcelona welcome Bayern Munich to Camp Nou in a game that will decide Liverpool’s opponents should they progress. Barca and Bayern are the joint top scorers in the competition this year and if you’re betting backing over 2.5 goals might be a good idea. I’ll leave you with one last fact ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Chelsea - in 11 games against English opposition in the competition (inc. last year's final against Manchester United) Chelsea have only won three games. Liverpool's only other English opponent (without Chelsea) in this competition has been Arsenal, who they beat 5-3 on aggregate in last year's quarter finals.

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