Ancelotti and Benitez – a close encounter for the third time?

It was on Wednesday, 25th May 2005 in the Ataturk Stadium, Istanbul that Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez first crossed managerial swords.

Rafa’s feelings about that game have been well documented but all too often we forget the opposition. This week, in the run up to today, Ancelotti reflected on it…

“In football, difficult moments can be good and help you improve. It was a difficult moment, for sure, but if you lose in a final you must remember that you got to the final in the first place. We lost an unbelievable game that night, and it was one of the best matches my Milan team played. It is always in my memory – it’s not a positive memory, but not too negative – but, for me, 2007 was destiny.”

Too true life, often satisfyingly and equally frustratingly, has a tendency to plug into the maxim “what goes around comes around” and two years later sure enough Ancelotti gained his revenge in Athens. Now he has swapped Milan for West London, what are his chances in tomorrow’s game? Whatever the outcome, for both men, deep down, when they have a moment in their busy schedules for private thought and reflection, I suspect they will both come to the conclusion, if not already do so, that the significance of that night, personally and career wise, will never ever be diminished.

Here endth the platitude, sorry I’ve probably been watching Sky too much!

I’m also probably being paranoid and overly sensitive, not to mention going on about too much, but the media continue to shower Liverpool with a hail of brickbats. Some of it is opinionated and limited to the field of play which is fair enough. Others are grubby and shoddy – note to Jermaine Pennant perhaps if you’d been more consistent and generally more talented when you were with us, Rafa would have played you more. Nonetheless perhaps Rafa was wrong and I look forward to you, as suggested in your article last week, proving it and appearing, in the World Cup next year. I’m not holding my breath!

Anyway, Chelsea appears to have escaped all this nonsense. Last Saturday’s defeat at Wigan was just a bad day at the office as was the midweek unconvincing one goal win in Cyprus. Yet if you add to that the two last gasp winners, against Hull on the opening day and then at Stoke a few weeks back, then you’ve got a side that is in the same predicament as us?

So where does that leave us today? It’s a crunch match if not in terms of the title, we are only in October, but in terms of confidence, kicking on and obtaining a massive physiological boost. These are the facts. If Chelsea win today they go top and establish six point margin over us. If we win there will be one point separating us, the Mancs and Chelsea! Even at this stage of the season that is the difference this game can have. It is a significant one?

I suspect none of the Liverpool team will need geeing up for this. The desire to do well and put things right after Tuesday will be immense and under Rafa we have generally bounced back when we’ve really needed it. Although we’ve exchanged a 2-2 series of Champions League knock outs, with the last two going in Chelsea’s favour, we can look back at last seasons league double over them. The most significant was the 1-0 win a year ago when we ended their unbeaten three hundred year old (or whatever the time span was) home record.

On that day we were without Torres who has a good record against Chelsea with five goals in six games. Peta Cech is also banned. However it’s not that simple. Rafa still has to decide what to do in midfield. Tuesday’s lightness in that part of the pitch only makes things more complicated for him. Does Mascherano, now fit after missing Tuesday, come back or does Gerrard drop back? Equally important is the issue of the full backs. Glen Johnson, Bosingwa, Insua, and Ashley Cole all like to push forward. Who will win the battle to keep them in their place? And then there is the defence. Although Agger is fit I suspect the Srktel/Agger decision will be delayed for another game or so.

Prediction? No side wants to lose a game but this is where defeat, even at this early stage of the season, could be a setback, not fatal but leaving work cut out. I suspect that nerves, caution, and perhaps a degree of looking at the wider picture, will mean that both will settle for making their move on another day, 1-1

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