Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Champions League Preview: Chelsea v. Liverpool

You all know how this works, right? Chelsea usually beat Liverpool in the league, but Liverpool own their overpaid asses in the cups. They've knocked them out of the FA Cup and the Champions League semi-finals in the past two years, so this one is a grudge match. (Although aren't they all, against Mourinho, really?)

Once they put the pre-match posturing and mind games aside, both teams will be looking to shut down their opponents and grind out a win. So it probably won't be the most entertaining match to watch as a neutral -- especially after the whirlwind that was United v. Milan. But I expect it to be a very close game, so if you're a fan of either side, it'll be nerve-wracking.

Michael Essien is suspended for the first leg (not to mention he also just got arrested for drunk driving; well done, knobhead), which is a blow for Chelsea because he's been one of their best players this season. Michael Ballack is also out injured, but he hasn't done much other than mosey around the pitch and scowl at people. Without the two of them in the team, Frank Lampard will get a chance to run the midfield -- let's see if he can boss a game, or if he'll just spend 90 minutes crashing free kicks into the wall. The other key player should be Joe Cole, who usually provides the leavening of creativity.

I expect Liverpool to put out a strong midfield to match Chelsea -- although Jermaine Pennant has been playing well recently, I think it'll be Stevie G on the right. At the back, they'll have their hands full dealing with Drogba and Shevchenko, who may not have been spectacular this year but still knows how to score in Europe. The real question for me, though, is where a Liverpool goal is going to come from. Some days it's no problem, but in other games they're just hopeless in front of the net. I think the result tomorrow will depend on xabi Alonso's passing and whether Gerrard gets enough of the ball to stampede around with.

Team predictions:
Chelsea: Cech; Diarra, Carvalho, Terry, A. Cole; Makelele, Mikel, Lampard, J. Cole; Drogba, Shevchenko

Liverpool: Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Arbeloa; Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Riise; Kuyt, Bellamy


Rafs said...

I really hope Harry Kewell gets to play on in the second leg at Anfield against Chelsea. I know he's been out for the better part of 10 months, but he is pure quality when Liverpool need a fast, skilled left winger. Apparently medics have the green light on Harry to play, but it's the call of Rafa's assistant who will say when Harry plays. He's been put through his paces, and will only play when he's reached 'Olympic' level fitness. He could probably play some part in the Premiership first, seeing as we've already secured UCL qualification for next year.

Hope he can make a stellar return as Raf's secret weapon!

Jen said...

No, no... Kewell is supposed to make his comeback for the final instead. He limps off after less than half an hour, and Liverpool go on to win. Just like last year. And the year before.

Seriously, though, it would be nice to see Kewell back. I think one of the things they've been missing this year is a top-quality winger, especially to give them options on the left.