The time, my friends, is now. Chelsea. Liverpool. Anfield. The Premier League crown in the balance.
"I am confident and I have to be confident. Great clubs don't throw their histories away. They don't throw their traditions away for one game. ... I think Liverpool will do their best on Sunday. They have to, there is no doubt about that. They have been in 10 European finals and won 18 titles, so that's a fantastic history. You don't throw that away just because of one game. And do you think their fans want to go home saying their team capitulated and didn't try?"
-Sir Alex Ferguson, mind games
Not to disappoint you, Fergs, but those boys from Merceyside do not require any further motivation, I'm afraid. The 'Pool will no doubt be in the mood come Sunday lunchtime. Shall we, then?
More of this please.
The what: Premier League, round 37 – Liverpool v. Chelsea
The where: Anfield (45,362)
The when: May 1, 1:30pm local time (8:30am EST)
The how: Fox Soccer Plus (Dish 406, DirecTV 621)
The referee: Alan Wiley
He comes from the Ivory Coast, Kalou Kalou
He don't do coke like Adrian Mutu Mutu
He crossed the ball in from the left, it landed right on Riise's head
That's why we love Soloman Kalou!
Position: 7 (62 points)
League Form: WWDDWL
Team: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Agger, Lucas, Mascherano, Gerrard, Aquilani, Rodriguez, Babel, Benayoun, Ngog, Kuyt, Cavalieri, Degen, El Zhar, Pacheco, Ayala, Plessis
Doubtful: Ngog (back), Kuyt (calf)
Injured: Skrtel (metatarsal), Aurélio (thigh), Insúa (thigh), Kelly (knee), Torres (knee)
Leading scorer: Torres 22 (18 league)
The exit strategy is sorted for Rafa. Fact. You are tired. Drained. Unmotivated. Crestfallen. Down a Torres. Win, and you are effectively securing title 19 for the red side of Manchester. And then there is this small detail, many of your own supporters would rather lose than win (not Ed, mind you) to deny United. Ripe for the taking, then? Not so fast.
Liverpool not showing up Sunday? Nonsense. Capitulating purposely? You're mad. No club - certainly not one of the standard or history of a Liverpool - is going to simply pack it in. Never. Not going to happen. The
scum hosts, I'd wager, will be every bit the rival they have proved to be over the past five seasons.
As Kevin McCarra of the Guardian so eloquently put it: " Ambivalence, to put it mildly, will be the prevailing mood in the Anfield stands when the game starts but it is hard to imagine Rafael Benítez's players taking care not to try. Fanatical effort, after all, is the principal tone of the Premier League and sides can barely envisage any other means of engaging with one another."
Will they be able to keep up may be a more appropriate query. Is this Liverpool side, in its current mold, a spent force? Perhaps. Injuries, as they have to so many clubs this term, have ravaged Benitez' team. Age has certainly played a role, too, as has a lack of competitive options. Ngog is a decent prospect, but serving as a No. 2 striker in a side of Liverpool's quality? Madness. Then there's the 120 minutes dealt out in ultimately depressing fashion midweek. A place in the Europa League final may have provided a lift; no such luck.
McCarra goes on to say: "If United have anything to dread at Anfield, it is simply the fact that Liverpool could lack the means to stop Chelsea. Last night's deserved elimination from the Europa League by Atlético Madrid, a side with better technique, demonstrated the decline of Benítez's squad. The Liverpool manager's suggestion that five new players are needed would have been questioned only by those who think it is a conservative estimate."
McCarra may be correct. But that does not mean Benitez' men cannot suck the life out of Chelsea supporters all across the globe on Sunday. Be wary.
Position: 1 (80 points)
League Form: WLWWWW
Team: Cech, Hilario, Turnbull, A Cole, Kalou, Alex, Drogba, Terry, Malouda, Lampard, Deco, Anelka, Zhirkov, J Cole, Belletti, Ballack, Kakuta, Sturridge, Ferreira, Bruma, Ivanovic
Doubtful: Mikel (knee), Drogba (groin)
Injured: Carvalho (ankle), Borini (hernia), Essien (knee), Bosingwa (knee)
Leading scorer: Drogba 32 (25 league)
I have had two dreams (premonitions?) this week regarding the match. 1. Tuesday, a decisive Chelsea win with goals from, you guessed it, Drogba (2) and Lampard. 'It's a very nice!' 2. Friday, awful. Indecision on a set piece early - within the opening five minutes - cost us. We were scrambling (c. Spurs) before I was awoken by a man telling me my building needed to be evacuated. Sweet. What to believe, what to believe?
There isn't really much more to say is there? Win or die. There is no gray area. A high-tempo start - as has been the case nearly the entire term - is a must. Test them, stretch them, see how they respond. Do it.
Potent potables ---
• Chelsea have failed to score in four of their last six league matches against Liverpool
• Chelsea have not recorded a league win at Anfield since October 2005
• Chelsea have lost 11 games at Anfield, more than at any other ground
• Liverpool have won nine of their last 10 league matches at Anfield
• There has been a 90th minute goal in each of the last two league games between these sides at Anfield
• There have been six goals scored between the 89th minute and the end of the match in the last nine games between the pair in all competitions.
• The Blues need four goals to equal United's Premier League record of 97 goals in a season
• Chelsea have been awarded 10 penalties this season, more than any other side
Curious what the possibilities are and how they will affect the race, then you sir are in luck ...
A. Win and United lose at Sunderland. We are campiones.
B. Win and United draw. We are campiones elect thanks to goal differential.
C. Win and United win. A hellacious final day of the season.
D. Draw and United lose. A draw at home to Wigan should hand us the title thanks to GD.
E. Draw and United draw. Same as C.
F. Draw and United win. The title is in Fergie's hands.
G. Lose and United lose. Same as C.
H. Lose and United draw. GD will be the goods if we both win on the final day.
I. Lose and United win. Same as F.
J. Just f****** win.
I like option J. KTBFFH