Who: Liverpool FC vs. Chelsea FC
What: English Premier League Matchweek 34
Where: Anfield, Liverpool, England, UK
When: Sunday, April 21, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 16:00 GMT/11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Deportes, Fox Soccer 2Go (US), Sky Sports 1/HD, Sky Go, Sky Sports 1 Ireland (UK)
Worldwide TV Streams and Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM channel SIRI 94 (Internet channel 94), BBC Radio 5 Live
Referee: Kevin Friend
3-Way Odds: Liverpool Even, Chelsea +225, Draw +210
Total: Over 2½ -136, Under 2½ Even
Decimal Odds: Liverpool 2.00, Chelsea 3.25, Draw 3.10
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.73, Under 2½ 2.00
Fractional Odds: Liverpool 1/1, Chelsea 9/4, Draw 21/10
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 73/100, Under 2½ 1/1
Source: Sportbook.com (Netherlands Antilles, Curaçao)
Chelsea will certainly have its work cut out for them on Sunday when it travels to Merseyside to face Liverpool in a match with huge implications for both clubs.
In the last 10 meeting between these two teams in all competitions it's been dead even with each side going 4-2-4 and scoring 16 goals apiece although the Reds have held the upper hand of late, going 4-1-1 (11-5 goals) over the last six.
When these storied clubs last met on Nov. 11 at Stamford Bridge in English Premier League play, things ended up 1-1 when Liverpool's Luis Suárez provided the equalizer in the second half after the Blues John Terry gave the home team a 1-0 lead in the first half on a nice header for his 50th career goal for the club.
For now third-place Chelsea (18-7-7, 61 points), a win or even a draw would probably suffice here as the European champions look to secure UEFA Champions League spot a little bit easier than the way they went about it last season—taking it down to the last shot of the last match of the last competition to do so.
And with fourth-place Arsenal (17-9-7, 60 points) playing a London derby at Craven Cottage against Fulham on Saturday (ESPN2, 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT) and fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur (17-7-8, 58 points) hosting Manchester City at White Hart Lane on Sunday (Fox Soccer Channel, 8:30 a.m. ET/5:30 a.m. PT), the Blues have an opportunity to hold on to, or, possibly increase their position with a solid performance at Anfield.
Liverpool (13-11-9, 50 points) enters the weekend in seventh place, eight points behind Spurs in fifth place and a potential Europa League berth with Merseyside neighbors Everton (14-14-5, 56 points) in-between the two clubs in sixth place and six points ahead of manager Brendan Rodgers' boys.
Much will be made about the return to Liverpool by Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benítez and striker Fernando Torres but, in reality, this may be the last time the now 53-year-old Spaniard—his birthday was April 16—and El Niño set foot on the pitch at Anfield as members of the Blues.
And although it may be tempting for Benítez to start Torres at the lone striker spot in the Blues familiar 4-2-3-1 tactical formation, it's worth noting that Benítez seems to be rotating Demba Ba and Torres up top in his starting XI and that Torres got the call in Wednesday's 3-0 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.
One good thing for Chelsea according to a report in the London Evening Standard is that defenders Ashley Cole (hamstring) land Gary Cahill (knee) may return to the fold against Liverpool, giving Benítez plenty of options in his back four with captain John Terry, Branislav Ivanović, César Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Ryan Bertrand all also being healthy and available.
In the central midfield, Chelsea will likely start John Obi Mikel and either Ramiers or vice captain Frank Lampard while Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and possibly Oscar will get the call in the Blues attacking midfield.
For Liverpool, Rodgers will no doubt have veteran Pepe Reina in goal opposite his Chelsea counterpart Petr Čech with Glenn Johnson, Daniel Agger, José Enrique and either Jamie Carragher or Martin Skrtel in his back-line's starting XI.
In the central midfield, the Reds will likely employ Lucas and captain Steven Gerrard in front of Suárez, Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho on the attack while former Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge will likely start up top at the Reds' striker spot.
Whereas Torres would love nothing better than to shine against his former teammates, it seems Sturridge may have more a chance to do so with the game at Anfield and more bees in his bonnet about his former employer than the newly-nicknamed "Zorres" (because of the protective mask) actually does.
And what would a Chelsea-Liverpool game be without a couple dramatic backstories, brother? Exactly. Just like a Tyler Perry movie or a pair of Crocs—absolutely meaningless.
Like the first meeting, this one should be extremely tight and defensively, whoever is in the Blues back four will have to keep close tabs on Suárez and Coutinho on the edges.
For the Blues, Mata and Hazard—like some others—seem to be wearing down a bit from the thick season which will see Chelsea play in a record number of games, so former Reds midfielder Yossi Benayoun may also get a chance to play into the storyline if the 32-year-old Israeli international is called upon.
No matter how this game evolves, it will truly be must-match football and if you really think Chelsea can pull off the win at Anfield, take a look at the underdog Blues at +225 for a chance to more than double up your money celery-breath.
And it also seems a 0-0, 1-1 or 2-2 scoreline is a good possibility and worth a shot from where I'm sitting.
Should Liverpool lose here, its chances of landing that Europa League spot will be all but gone while a Chelsea loss combined with Arsenal win would return the Blues back into fifth place, two points behind their London Town rivals (63-61) and possibly tied again with Spurs on points should Tottenham defeat the defending league champion Sky Blues.
One thing's for certain for Chelsea heading down the stretch this waning Premier League season: Every single match and every single game will likely end up mattering in the end.
Projected Chelsea starting XI: Čech; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Cole; Mikel, Ramires; Oscar, Mata, Hazard; Ba.
Projected Liverpool starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Enrique; Lucas, Gerrard; Suárez, Henderson, Coutinho; Sturridge.
PREDICTION: Liverpool 1 Chelsea 1
BET: Draw +210
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