The classic color battle: Red vs. Blue, Hot vs. Cold and in terms of this weekend Liverpool vs. Chelsea. The Reds take on West-London's Chelsea at Stamford bridge where ex-Liverpool starlet Fernando Torres will clash heads with the new Liverpool regime.
For such a mammoth fixture in the English footballing calendar, the build up to the match has been somewhat of a docile one as off field affairs have somewhat muted the anticipation of Sunday's match. In this week of International play a lot has gone down off the pitch in regards to Liverpool players, consequently arriving in bitter-sweet form. As the player's were off serving their countries, some more than others, journalists have been praying on the decision by the FA to charge Luis Suarez with racial abuse directed towards Manchester United's defender Patrice Evra, during their match on October 15th. They have finally decided to act after weeks of dilly-dallying over it, releasing a official statement that reads,
“The FA has today charged Liverpool’s Luis Suarez following an incident that occurred during the Liverpool versus Manchester United fixture at Anfield on 15 October 2011.
“It is alleged that Suarez used abusive and/or insulting words and/or behavior towards Manchester United’s Patrice Evra contrary to FA rules.
“It is further alleged that this included a reference to the ethnic origin and/or color and/or race of Patrice Evra. The FA will issue no further comment at this time.”
Luis Suarez will face a 6-match ban plus a hefty fine if he is found guilty, which is not comforting to any Liverpool fan as he is the lynch-pin in the Reds attack, the one who makes us tick offensively. Without the Uruguayans influence we are left with a less than clinical Andy Carroll, a solid Dirk Kuyt, and Craig Bellamy to provide the finishing. Not bad options, but in comparison to Suarez's influence pails in comparison.
Suarez's charge has emerged at a interesting time as his team will face a Chelsea side that fields John Terry, a player also under investigation for racial bashing. Oddly enough these player's will be lining up against each other this weekend, and furthermore could be linked when it comes to a official decision on their charges. Terry could end up being Suarez's alibi. If the FA charges the Liverpool player, they will also have to charge John Terry with the racism claims over his alleged basing of QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. As England's poster boy and captain, Terry won't be painted as a racist by the FA, so if they don't charge him they will most likely not charge the Uruguayan.
One thing that is a fore-gone conclusion is that they will not be comparing similarities at the weekend, looking to win their personal head-to-head. Suarez will be lining up opposite Terry at the weekend in a match that really is anyones for the taking. Chelsea sit 5th behind Newcastle, 3 points atop Liverpool in the league table. Chelsea have won 4 of their last 6 games, defeating Blackburn a fortnight ago 1-0, where Liverpool have won 3 and drawn 3. All be their defense looking the weak point of the side, Liverpool have let in only 3 goals in the their last 6 matches, having faced teams like Swansea, Stoke Manchester United, and Everton. Chelsea's stats sing a similar song, but to a more dramatic tune. Having scored a fair amount, with 3 against Arsenal, and 5 against Genk on the 19th of Oct. A more telling stat is that they have shipped 10 goals in their last 6 matches, most notably 5 against Arsenal. This paints a picture of two teams that can both score, but in defense are more than suspect. When Liverpool and Chelsea clash it often produces a quality spectacle, so I will go out on a limb and say a 2-3 Liverpool win, even though my conscience says a 1-1 draw.
Along with the guaranteed racism mentions by the match announcers, a huge talking point is former Liverpool player's Raul Meireles and Fernando Torres facing their old club. Torres will be itching to net a goal against his former employers, after he was booed by England fans in Spain's match with England. Much has come out in various media publications about Torres threatening to tell the " real" story over his exit from Liverpool, which in my mind is no more than the Spaniard creating drama, and journalists trying to sell papers. Anyhow, that just adds fuel to the fire in facing your old squad who's supporters publicly burned your jersey after your departure. Scoring 56 Premier League goals in just 79 appearances under Rafa Benitez at Liverpool, Torres has struggled to find form after his big money move and Liverpool's replacement Luis Suarez will look to show him how it's done.
You might expect to Martin Kelly drafted into the line-up for Liverpool, chosen over Glenn Johnson at right back. Johnson's performance in England's match with Spain was one to forget, as the faults that he is usually accused with where plain to see, and proved to the fence-sitters that he lacks International class. Having Juan Mata and and Ashley Cole running at you on the left, the last thing Kenny Dalgleish needs is his right back going walk-about. Johnson and the attacking threat he does provide, will be chosen second to the more disciplined, old-head- yet younger player Martin Kelly.
Not to point out the obvious…Liverpool's Midfield will have to be way more commanding than displayed in their measly 0-0 draw with Swansea in their last Barclay's Premier League match. Against Chelsea, all guns must be firing so the likes of Charlie Adam has to tune his boots to the right pitch and connect some passes. Steven Gerrard, If he starts, will have to look at his opposite number and fellow England International Frank Lampard for some inspiration and motivation. Possession was poor a fortnight ago, and when defending Liverpool sat really deep against a far less challenging opponent in Swansea City. This cannot be how the game transpires against the Blue of Chelsea, as Juan Mata will be have his cutlery sharpened, ready slice the Liverpool defense.
Looking back a few paragraphs to my prediction, Liverpool see it out thanks to a Carroll header, and a brace from Kuyt. Maxi doesn't get the start, unfortunately, for Dalgleish opts to go with the players he knows/ payed for.
Stay tuned for the next edition of Liver n' Onions as I will review the match, and bring you the latest from Merseyside.