Champions League Quarter Final Preview – Liverpool vs Chelsea

Yes, again

Yes, again

Sportboy 2 – Pavel’s Prediction

The most predictable draw of the quarter finals, Liverpool versus Chelsea has now become an annual Champions League fixture. Having spent most of their encounters thinking I would rather eat my own fist, hopefully this year’s tie will build on the exciting matches from the semi-final stage last season, rather than reverting to type – i.e. a sack of steaming crap.

First Leg Focus

Minus the defeat at Spurs, Chelsea now look the side that could have been real title challengers alongside Liverpool and Man United. Drogba is scoring goals again and Essien brings midfield power play, while Hiddink has got them back to a solid unit despite lingering injury concerns over Carvalho.

The main question I have is over how they will be able to mix it up against Liverpool in the first leg. I think Hiddink is the type of manager who will try to take the initiative, knowing that needing a result at Anfield will be a big ask. There is no doubt that playing it up to Drogba is going to cause any team problems and he did just that against Liverpool at the semi-final stage last season.

However, with Mascherano and Alonso buzzing around central midfield and Gerrard forcing Mikel into a very retreated role, I think it will be difficult for Chelsea to play it through the middle. So once again, the Blues will be looking to their full backs to get forward and provide crosses from deep on which they can feed the Drog. The fitness of Bosingwa will be crucial, although Belletti may be a good option despite Hiddink’s lack of faith in his defensive abilities.

Liverpool will go into this match knowing exactly what they need to do. Rafa will have them well drilled and as a rarity we will see a largely unchanged line up. The aforementioned partnership of Alonso and Mascherano impressed in the last round and again they will be the launchpad for Gerrard and Torres to work their magic. If the lumbering Alex plays, I expect Chelsea to play a deep back-line in an attempt to deny Torres the space in behind. Although this might restrict Liverpool counter attacks, it could open up space for Gerrard in midfield as Essien, Ballack and Lampard push on.

I have mentioned on this blog before that I am a big fan of Yossi Benayoun and ‘the Kid’ again scored an all important injury-time winner against Fulham at the weekend. He may not start against Chelsea but I am sure he will play some part. As he showed in Madrid, he can get into very good positions and is an astute scorer. Should the Blues cancel out the Gerrard-Torres tandem, Yossi may well have the key to unlock the Chelsea back-line.

The Call

You really never know with these two but I have an inkling that Chelsea will sneak a narrow win but not improbably with a Liverpool away goal. I will go for 2-1, Drogba, Essien and Benayoun scoring the goals.




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