Talk lfc match report
Preview and report by Robbie Amins at talklfc
Liverpool travel to London to take on a Chelsea side who are still unbeaten and only conceded one goal (via a James Beattie screamer) in the league this season.
It will be something like a European Super Cup final for Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez. The clash at Stamford Bridge will see the cream of football coaches from the Iberian peninsular pit their wits against each other for the first time.
Four months ago, Jose Mourinho led Porto to victory in the Champions League final and Rafael Benitez captured the Spanish League title with Valencia. Had the two not moved to the Premiership, they would have met in the Super Cup fixture between their former clubs. But today is the day they will meet and both are hoping to put one over the other.
Jose Mourinho's team has started the season better but it has to be said that with the Russian rubbles that he have, there would be something wrong if his team didn't. The Chelsea manager though does have a lot of respect for his Liverpool counterpart and he believes it is just a matter of time before the Reds moves up the table and challenge for the top spots.
He said, "He did fantastic work in Valencia. We should have played the European Super Cup because we won the UEFA Cup and the Champions League but instead it was Victor Fernandez and Mr. Ranieri. But it will be nice to see him."
"I have a lot of respect for Rafael Benitez and Liverpool Football Club. Liverpool has a great history and I am looking forward to this match."
"You have to look for the record of a manager and sometimes it demands respect. Sometimes you doubt some managers but not Benitez. I know he's top class. When I see he was UEFA Cup winner and Spanish champion and doing fantastic work in Valencia you have to respect him."
"Liverpool are not that far away from the top. They know the championship is 10 months and dozens of matches and sometimes you can be fourth and arrive first. They are not under pressure but they come here on the back of a defeat in Olympiacos and they will come fully committed."
The Anfield outfit though are facing their fourth successive away defeat and in the last two against both Man Utd and Olympiakos, it was poor marking at set-pieces that cost them dearly. Liverpool have reverted to zonal marking under Benitez and they are still getting used to it.
"I think the zonal defence at set-pieces has good things and bad things and I think that man-to-man marking has good things and bad things. I say to my players all the time that every tactical system has good things and bad things." he continued.
"Even our system that we prepare to play has weak points. You are better if you understand your weak points and we know ours. Set-plays are a very specific part of the game and sometimes it is a question of details."
"Unfortunately for Liverpool they have conceded goals and lost matches due to defensive set-plays but I know with Benitez they work on it and they try to improve. They can change system to man-to-man or he can keep the faith in zonal but of course the concentration will be different because they have conceded goals."
Benitez is expected to continue with his one-man upfront policy away from home which means he has to choose from Cisse and Baros. Harry Kewell is expected to return to the starting line-up with Stephen Warnock returning to the bench.
"Liverpool come here from a defeat," Mourinho added.
"I know it was different competition but nobody likes to lose two consecutive matches. I think they will be fully committed."
Liverpool (from): Dudek, Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Warnock, Kewell, Hamann, Alonso, Garcia, Finnan, Cisse, Baros, Pongolle, Kirkland, Diao, Traore, Biscan, Henchoz.
For a while it looked like it finally worked. Zonal marking from set-pieces that is. Until a low freekick into the box from Lampard and a deft touch from Joe Cole fooled John Arne Riise and the rest of the Liverpool defenders to give Chelsea the 1-0 win. The moment of poor concentration or the lack of it meant that Liverpool have now lost their fourth succesive away game.
Before Cole's arrival from the substitutes' bench as a replacement for the injured Didier Drogba, Rafael Benitez's deployment of five men in midfield had disturbed the fluidity of Chelsea's attacks and they struggled to get behind the Liverpool defence.
Liverpool boss Benitez made five changes from the team that slumped in Greece but although the new-look side still could not produce a win, at least they performed better than in the Man Utd and Olympiakos games.
The much-maligned Djimi Traore started his first game of the season at left back and Riise was pushed to left midfield. Salif Diao was given an opportunity to show what he could do as he partnered Xabi Alonso in the centre. Luis Garcia who was looking vulnerable in away games started as a right winger with Harry Kewell playing behind Cisse.
The watching England boss Sven Goran Eriksson must have been pleased to see Chris Kirkland finally given a chance in the starting line-up. Kirkland though gave him and Liverpool fans a scare when he looked like he was hurt again just two minutes into the game as Jamie Carragher slid in to block Damien Duff's cross.
And while the Liverpool keeper was able to play on, albeit limping for several minutes afterwards, it was by no means the last time that Carragher was called upon to come to his side's rescue.
Jose Mourinho's men somehow thought that Josemi was the Reds' weakest link in defence and started most of their attacking moves down their left flank. Damien Duff saw a lot of the ball and William Gallas went on marauding overlapping runs many times. Ofcourse it had a lot to do with Mourinho fielding the defensive minded Alexei Smertin on the right side of midfield.
After 15 minutes a well worked move on the left, involving Duff, Lampard and Drogba, saw the England midfielder turn on the edge of the box to give himself a shooting chance, but his effort drifted aimlessly wide.
Drogba and Lampard again both scuffed shots wide and it was actually Djibril Cisse who was Liverpool's main threat and almost gave them the lead against the run of play with a superb curling effort deflected just wide of the farpost.
Drogba then limped off with a groin injury before the break and Mourinho was forced to send on Joe Cole as he did not even name striker Mateja Kezman to be on the bench. The decision by the Portuguese howeber paid dividends. Joe Cole sneaked in to score (in the second half) after the Reds who were living dangerously by conceding so many freekicks failed to track his run into the box.
Liverpool did come out for the second half with more ambition and more attacking intent. They had more possession for the first 10 minutes of the second forty-five. After Cole's goal however, you could sense that the Reds were getting desperate and badly needed some inspiration from somewhere. Benitez reacted by bringing on always-lively Milan Baros to partner Cisse, with Josemi being removed as John Arne Riise moved to full-back and Kewell switched to the wing.
However, even with Didi Hamann and Steve Finnan also introduced, they continued to labour as Chelsea's tight-knit defence held firm yet again. Chelsea Czech Cech had to make an important late save from a good left-footed effort from Finnan. Probably Rafael Benitez's side's only real effort on target.
The Reds' 1-0 reverse at Stamford Bridge leaves them languishing 11th in the English Premiership after taking just one point from a possible 12 on their travels. Coming straight after their defeat to Olympiakos in the Champions League, the Reds' ability to challenge for top honours is in question.
----------- Kirkland ----------
Josemi Carra Hyypia Traore
Garcia - Diao Alonso - Riise
---------- Kewell ----------
---------- Cisse ----------
Subs on:- Baros for Josemi (71 min), Hamann for Diao & Finnan for Garcia (78 min).
Subs not used:- Dudek, Warnock
Chelsea: Cech, Paulo Ferreira, Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, Gallas, Makelele, Smertin (Tiago, 85), Lampard, Duff (Geremi, 81), Drogba (Cole, 38), Gudjohnsen.
Subs not used: Cudicini, Huth.
Liverpool's Man of the Match:- Jamie Carragher