Chelsea and Liverpool have served up some classic matches over the years, both in the Barclays Premiership and the UEFA Champions League – a competition that both stuttering Chelsea and resurgent Liverpool hope to be competing in next season. The spotlight will inevitably be on £50 million Spanish striker Fernando Torres following his January move to the Blues, as the stage is set for the ex-Liverpool frontman to make his debut, fitness permitting, against his old club. The Spaniard inspired Liverpool to victory at Anfield earlier in the season, scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory; Chelsea will be looking for revenge at Stamford Bridge with the chief architect of their demise in the previous fixture now amongst their ranks.

At the turn of the year both clubs found themselves considerably behind the pace-setters and off the boil in both performance and position in the Barclays Premier League. However both teams have had more positive results of late; Liverpool have won the last three games without conceding a goal, whilst Chelsea have recorded impressive victories in potential banana skin fixtures against Sunderland and Bolton. The Reds revival in form is down to caretaker manager and Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish, who this week was given a vote of confidence by the clubs owners, and whom has a real chance of fulfilling his ambitions of becoming the club’s manager on a permanent basis; his opposite number Carlo Ancelotti has pulled his head off the chopping block with improved results, mainly down to his attackers rediscovering their ability to find the back of the net on a regular basis.

The importance of the fixture is given extra zest with Fernando Torres most likely lining up against his former teammates. Torres’s move to Chelsea has incited the Liverpool fans who previously worshipped him, and the Spaniard can expect a frosty reception and a few boo’s from the travelling scouse supporters. Liverpool have such an illustrious history and a comprehensive fanbase, who do not accept second best; the sale of the clubs most valuable asset threatens to relegate them from one of the biggest football clubs in the world game to a selling club in the second tier of the Premiership. Fixtures like the one this Sunday will dictate whether the Champions League winners of 2005 can recapture former glories or will be forced to accept that they are no longer part of the elite of English football.

Liverpool’s new goalgetter Luis Suarez made a scoring debut from the bench against Stoke in midweek, and with Andy Carroll not fit Suarez is expected to make his first start against Chelsea. The Uruguayan has big boots to fill after Torres’s departure and the striker showed promise against Stoke. If his scoring record of 111 goals in 159 games for Ajax is anything to go by, the Kop may have a new hero and a winning goal on Sunday will go far to eradicating the bitterness of Torres’s exit. Although there will be new faces on show at the Bridge, the home supporters will recognise ex Chelsea playmaker Joe Cole, who may also feature if he recovers from a knee injury and have an important part to play if the visitors are to take anything from this fixture.

But where does Torres fit into Chelsea’s line-up? With Chelsea free-scoring in their latest games in both League and Cup, Torres threatens to upset the Drogba-Anelka machine that has started to fire. Another ex Liverpool striker, Nicolas Anelka, may draw the short straw to accommodate the Chelsea fans latest idol, and despite Torres and Didier Drogba’s undoubted class, as with any strike partnership they may take time to gel. The home faithful may also be treated to another new face, in the form of Brazilian centre back David Luiz, who may make his debut on Sunday – the towering defender has been earmarked as John Terry’s long term defensive partner.

In the bigger picture a win for either team can springboard them to a strong end to the season and a push towards European football next season. Chelsea are currently in 4th place, with Tottenham close on their heels and the three teams above them continuing to tally points. Liverpool’s rejuvenation has powered them up to 7th, nine points behind Chelsea, and an away win against one of the League’s leading teams would be a major shot in the arm to the scouser’s season. The so called “Big Four” has been shaken up with Spurs’s progression at home and in Europe, and big spending Manchester City’s quest for Champions League football, and if Chelsea or Liverpool want to play a major part in the title race a win on Sunday is a necessity.

So, Liverpool’s new found solidarity and improved defence versus Chelsea’s revitalised goal scoring and the addition of El Niño, the Kid; something has to give. Expect fireworks from the first whistle, and hopefully a free flowing spectacle. The odds will favour the home team but Liverpool should not be underestimated as Kenny Dalglish has given the team a steel and desire to win that just wasn’t there in Roy Hodgson’s tenure. The Torres factor will be extra motivation to the travelling team to unite and get a result, but his undoubted class may prove too much for his former employers – let battle commence

Published – http://www.fastlinesports.com/?p=4562

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