Premier League match time returns to Stamford Bridge when Liverpool play Chelsea in a second leg game, on Sunday, February 6.
The first leg game between the sides, on November 7 at Anfield, was won 2-0 by hosts Liverpool. The game marked a return to form by Torres who scored both the goals for Hodgson’s side, in minutes 11 and 44. The Spanish striker’s brilliance gave his beleaguered manager a lease of life at Anfield.
But the score does not the whole story, as Chelsea dominated 69% possession on the day. For Chelsea, Malouda and Zhirkov lost opportunities owing to poor corners taken.
The real man of the match was Lucas, not Toirres, and Kelly was another player who stood up to be counted in Glen Johnson’s absence. Carragher was outstanding as centre-back, and appears to have filled the boots of Alonso and Mascherano. Hodgson’s 4-4-2 formation against a strong Chelsea midfield appeared suicidal, but it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that Lucas bossed the game. While being excellent on the tackle, he showed a lot of adventure and accuracy in his passing. Meireles was another player who had a great day at the office for Liverpool; he is turning out to be a better replacement for Xabi Alonso than Aquilani.
Defensive lapses cost Chelsea the game as Torres exploited the space between Terry and Cole, to score. That said, the Blues dominated the second half, in which Liverpool appeared devoid of vision or passing ability.
Head to head, Chelsea lead 9-5 in the last16 league games between the sides.
In their last 10 league games, this season, Ancelotti’s squad have won 4 while losing 2 and drawing the remaining 4. Liverpool have won 5 of their last 10 games, while losing 4 and drawing the one. Chelsea have won 8 of 11 home games this season, while drawing 2 and losing the remaining one. Liverpool have lost 8 of 12 games on the road while winning and drawing 2 each. Both teams are coming off wins in match week 25; Chelsea won 4-2 away at Sunderland, while Liverpool beat Stoke 2-0 at home.
On current form, the game on Saturday is likely to be hard-fought, with Chelsea enjoying home advantage.
Chelsea had the following men in their starting eleven against Sunderland: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Lampard, Mikel, Essien, Anelka, Drogba and Kalou. Malouda, Ramires and Ferreira played as substitutes.
Liverpool’s starting eleven against Stoke comprised Reina, Kelly, Skrtel, Agger Kyrgiakos, Johnson, Gerrard, Lucas, Aurelio, Meireles and Kuyt. Shelvey and Suarez were used as substitutes.
By: Suresh Iyer