Every so often the moment of truth arrives. A time were you are required to prove that all the talk and all the action is justified. Where words like “potential” over ninety minutes undergo a startling metamorphosis and become phrases likes “genuine contenders” or “flatters to deceive”.
Sorry to begin this piece with the sort of nonsense we’ll probably get from Sky this afternoon, but there is danger of over egging the impact of today’s match. If we lose to Chelsea we can still win the title. However sadly for many today will be the litmus test for our credentials even thought it is only October and there are thirty games to go. If it comes out “blue” for many that will be that. Clearly it is not the case but today will be an interesting but not necessarily reliable indicator as to how far we’ve come and what we might expect in the future.
Why can’t I view this is a big make or break tie? Simply because there’s too much football to be played this season to draw conclusion about Chelsea and about us. The matter is further complicated by the fact that both sides will probably field under strength line ups due to injuries. Does this matter? It shouldn’t and did not for Chelsea last week who thumped Middlesbrough with an under strength side. Of course we are missing Torres and Robbie Keane is still touch and go however the two other doubts that emerged from our trip to Madrid will be Ok – Alonso has recovered from a knee knock and Gerrard has managed to get some kip!
The press build up to this game has been varied. Robbie Keane, because of his success against Chelsea for Spurs last season, has featured prominently. Can we win? Robbie says yes, so does Xabi Alonso, so does Roy Evans and probably any one else who has been asked. However, Chelsea are the favorites not least because of home record. At Stamford Bridge they are unbeaten in 86 homes games or if you prefer, four years and eight months. There is also the issue of the last time we met when Chelsea finally ended the Champions League Semi final hoodoo and beat us. However, Xabi Alonso is right when he says that none of this should have any bearing today.
“What happened against Chelsea last season won’t have an influence on this game, I am sure of that. This is a different season, there are different players on both sides, a different manager at Chelsea and we can only focus on what happens during this game.”
The teams behind us will be looking for one or both of us to drop points but both sides will be encouraged by The Mancs inability to take advantage yesterday at Goodison Park. Whatever happens Rafa will presumably be spelling out the need to keep things tight particularly in the opening part of the game. We cannot afford a repeat of the Manchester City and Wigan games where we conceded early goals. We will need to be on the ball (literally) from the very start as I don’t think Chelsea, should be go behind, will as generous in allowing us a escape route back into the game.
Prediction? Both sides are playing more expansive football this season, whatever that actually means. However I wouldn’t be surprised if this lapsed back into one of the cagey confrontations that this tie so often throws up. I can see it being settled by one goal but if I was forced to stump up some of my hard earned cash on the result my inclination would be go for a point a piece. Above all let’s hope we can continue this good run and maintain confidence. Come on Reds, keep it going.
Enjoy the game.