There was a time when we would meet Liverpool in, seemingly, just about every other round of any and every cup competition imaginable. Of course that was not quite true, but ten games spread over six knockout rounds (two single-elimination and four two-legged matchups) in a little over four years certainly gave that impression. We could throw in the 2006 Community Shield as well for good measure.
It all started with the 2004-05 League Cup final, Jose Mourinho's first trophy with Chelsea. We could write books about that game alone, but we're not Liverpool fans, so we won't. Suffice it to say that Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman won it for us in extra time, though Steve Gerrard certainly put in an MVP-caliber performance as well. A couple months later came the ghost goal as Champions League destiny lay on Liverpool's side.
Chelsea were on the losing end of next season's FA Cup semifinal as well, before losing in the Champions League semifinals once again, this time in a penalty kick shootout. The 2007-08 season brought redemption, both in the League Cup (2-0 to the Blues in the quarterfinals) and in the Champions League semifinals, though the football gods wiped the smiles off our faces when we ended up losing the final of both competitions. There would be one more meeting during this period in next season's Champions League quarterfinals, the two sides saving their craziest for last as Chelsea advanced to an ultimate disgrace via a 4-4 second leg and 7-5 aggregate victory.
After a short hiatus, the modern rivalry resumed with the FA Cup final a couple years ago, and spilled over into the Premier League thanks to Liverpool becoming relevant once again. Fortunately for us, Gerrard was still up to his MVP antics, continuing to fulfill his never quite fulfilled Chelsea dream. There was also a 2-0 loss for us at the Bridge in the League Cup, but that one has an AVB-sized asterisk next to it, so we can safely ignore it.
So, seven knockout round matchups, seven absolute classics. And despite Liverpool's hodgepodge start to the season, today's League Cup semifinal, first leg, promises to be yet another.
Date / Time: Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 19:45 GMT; 2:45pm EST; 1:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool, England
Referee: Martin Atkinson - he's usually a good omen, except the last time he refereed a Chelsea game, which was our 2-1 loss in Newcastle just last month. That was still only our third loss in 31 games under Atkinson. He was in charge when we visited Anfield at the tail end of last season as well and that turned out quite alright. In fact, Atkinson has refereed four ties between the Blues and the Reds, and we have won three of those by a 2-0 scoreline. The fourth was the 2006 Community Shield, which barely counts as a competitive match anyway (especially when you lose).
Forecast: Freezing with a decent chance of sleet or snow and 100% chance of mango ball. Sounds like a party.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); beIN Sports (USA); Ten HD / Action (India); elsewhere
Online: Sky Go (UK); beIN Sports Connect (USA)
Liverpool team news: Don't look now, but Liverpool have actually put together a pretty god run of results, losing just twice since last hosting Chelsea in early November. They are currently unbeaten in eight. Their League Cup journey to this point has involved a succession of increasingly easier wins, starting with that crazy 2-2 draw and billion-round penalty kick shootout against Patrick Bamford and Middlesbrough, continuing with a 2-1 win over Swansea City in which they had to score twice in the final five minutes to progress, and then beating AFC Bournemouth in a rather straightforward manner last month.
Brendan Rodgers seems to have finally figured out a workable shape and gameplan, one that involves such crazy things as Emre Can playing a third center back, Lazar Markovic (and at times Jordan Henderson!?) playing as wingbacks, and even Fabio Borini seeing the pitch with regularity.
Captain Steven Gerrard is expected to return after a hamstring injury kept him out over the weekend. Daniel Sturridge, Joe Allen, Brad Jones, Jon Flanagan, and maybe Glen Johnson remain out, while Mario Balotelli probably won't be fit having just recovered from a chest infection. Kolo Touré is away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast.
With just three games to go in the competition, the League Cup is Liverpool's best chance at a trophy this season, and we should expect them to play and behave accordingly.
View from the enemy: The Liverpool Offside
Chelsea team news: Cesar Azpilicueta remains sidelined with his groin injury, but Thibaut Courtois may be back in goal. The young man will certainly start one or more of the next three games (all domestic cup ties) ahead of our huge league clash against Manchester City on January 31.
This game may say League Cup on the tin, but I wouldn't expect Mourinho to run out anything other than a full-strength lineup.
Previously: Wellllllll ... you know what to do here. This will be our 170th meeting; Liverpool hold a 74-60 edge.