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PL Preview: Chelsea v. Liverpool

The momentum is back in this Chelsea side after success in the league against Bolton and Sunderland. Results seem to be mostly in our favor this weekend so far, with Manchester United dropping three points and Arsenal managing to boggle minds by dropping a 4-goal lead. The media and football fans are abuzz particularly with our new signing Torres available to play against Liverpool. We also have this other guy - David Luiz - ready, but nobody seems too bothered about that right now because - TORRES! LIVERPOOL!

But can they work together?

Who: Liverpool
What: Premier League, Round 26
Where: Stamford Bridge (41,841)
When: 06 February, 4:00pm local time (11am EST)
How: Fox Soccer Channel (DirecTV 619, Dish Network 149)

Why: Because there are big questions on everyone's mind! Will Torres start? Will he score against his former club? How will Ancelotti set up his team to accommodate the Spaniard?

To be honest, I've been so focused on those questions myself that I completely forgot it could be Joe Cole's first trip back to the Bridge since he abandoned blue for red and then called them the biggest club in the country; but now it seems as though he suffered a knee injury in training and could be out. Either way, he was unlikely to start the match anyway.

The Guardian put together their own "Joy of Six" list of Liverpool-Chelsea matches - a bit slanted in the Reds' direction. Some of my fondest memories are more recent and, of course, in the Champions league: the semifinal after Frank Lampard's mum passed away and the emotional penalty that helped catapult the Blues into their first Champions League final; the moment Chelsea fans actually took notice of Branislav Ivanovic as he almost immediately cemented his place as a Blues legend with a classic brace; the ridiculously heart-attack-inducing come-from-behind 4-4 that occured a week later and knocked Liverpool out of the CL at the Bridge. Alex's nearly decapitating rocket freekick from that match is still my favorite Chelsea goal.

Our recent league matches against the Reds have been a mixed bag. They was the one that broke our magical undefeated home record a couple seasons ago, with a goal that was deflected off Bosingwa. We beat them twice last season in the league as we took full points from the now-defunct "Top Four". And there's the one that started our slump in November with then-listless Fernando Torres finding his magnificent form for one match.

Torres scored six seven goals against us as a Liverpool player including the two in November; we'll all be breathing a sigh of relief that he won't be able to score against us again anytime soon. Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba have 17 goals against the Reds between them (two of them were scored by Drogba for Marseille, as he clearly wanted to get a head start on demolishing the team from Merseyside).

In his pre-match press conference, Carlo wasn't giving any team news away. He claimed that both Torres and Luiz were fit for selection, but wouldn't answer whether either of them would start or not. But if our new number 9 does play, it will likely be at the cost of one of our midfielders. Do we keep Anelka on, with Drogba and Torres up front, drop Malouda into midfield, bench Ramires and let Essien be the holding midfielder? Or do we keep Malouda on the bench as we did last weekend and let Rami or Mikel loose? I feel as though the match against Sunderland was Carlo testing Nico's ability to play behind the strikers, and he succeeded beyond belief. It makes sense to keep him there and let him drop deep as he likes to do and feed the ball to Torres and Drogba up front.

Chelsea Projected XI:
Bosingwa - JT - Ivanovic - Cole
Lampard - Malouda
Drogba - Torres

Liverpool Projected XI:
Kelly - Skrtel - Agger - Johnson
Meireles - Lucas - Gerrard
Maxi - Kuyt -Suarez

Liverpool have been struggling in the league for the past two seasons and have now lost their big Spaniard up front but gained two new strikers - Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. Suarez came off the bench to score in his debut mid-week and likely earned himself a starting place for tomorrow, but Carroll is still injured and won't play. I'm not underestimating them, though. We've been comical in defense at times and given up ridiculous goals, but it's time to shut up shop and keep the clean sheets coming. Or let's at least start by not conceding the first goal.

For me personally, it's going to take a while to warm to seeing Torres in blue - a couple of goals against Liverpool tomorrow will certainly speed up the process! Come on you Blues!

Also: Don't forget to check out the roundtable discussion for the match on The Offside's main page. It's a gas. Click here to peep it.

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