In the highlight fixture of the weekend, especially given the events during the week, Liverpool will travel to Stamford Bridge to face a Chelsea side who boast their ex-idol Fernando Torres.
An explosive tie as it is, Liverpool's £50m sale of Fernando Torres to Chelsea, after the player handed in a transfer request, has made this the most anticipated clash of the season so far. Liverpool feel let down and betrayed by the Spaniard, who they endeared with nicknames like 'Nando' and 'El Nino', and if the clash was to played at Anfield rather than Stamford Bridge, Torres would have been in for a rough game. In a show of remonstration against him, the Anfield faithful burned Torres replica jerseys outside Anfield after his move was announced. The 26-year old then announced that he had joined one of the top clubs in the World, thereby further angering the Reds.
Ironically, the late Sunday clash between the two clubs will see Torres make his debut against the team he was a member of just last week. However, after acquiring Torres, the problem that faces Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is how to use his £50m man. He will have to drop either of Anelka, Malouda or Drogba, the last option quite unlikely, to facilitate the Spaniard's inclusion and tweak his formation from the tried and tested 4-3-3. A big clue as to what goes through Ancelotti's mind is how he set his team about in the mid-week fixture against Sunderland, which they won 4-2. He sent his team out in a 4-1-2-1-2 formation, with Anelka excelling in his job of linking the midfield to the forwards.
Chelsea have climbed out of their miserable patch, winning their last four encounters in all competitions. And with the addition of 23-year-old center back David Luiz, who joined on transfer deadline day along with Torres, the Chelsea rearguard has been beefed up. However, it might take time for the new additions to set in and Ancelotti's main challenge lies in helping them onto the ground with their feet running.
Liverpool will be highly motivated for this tie. They are a proud club and they don't take well to betrayal. Anfield has been going through their own revival, after their idol Kenny Dalglish took over the managerial seat. After a meek start to his second stint at Liverpool, 'King Kenny' has instilled confidence and power back into Liverpool, winning them their last three encounters, which included an away win at Wolves - their first away win in 11 trips. On that occasion, Torres had scored two goals.
Though the loss of Torres is a massive blow for Liverpool, they ensured they brought quality replacements with the £50m. Luis Suarez (£22m) and Andy Carroll (£35m) were brought in as replacements and Suarez made his debut in style against Stoke City during mid-week when he scored within 16 minutes of coming on to seal a 2-0 win. Coincidentally, Torres had also made his debut by scoring on his 16th minute as a Liverpool player against Chelsea!
Andy Carroll will have to wait till the end of the month to make his debut as he is suffering from a thigh injury, but Suarez will look to steal Torres' limelight on Sunday. Torres might also have to face a very angry Jamie Carragher who has recovered from a shoulder injury in time for this crucial encounter.
Typical to the funny ways in which football works, there has been many coincidences and ironies preceding this game, all showing signs of an epic encounter. There are battles all over the pitch including Torres against Carragher, Lampard against Gerrard and Terry against Suarez, just to cite a few. It's a big occasion where the big players make their mark!
Team News -
Fernando Torres is expected to start for Chelsea, while their other signing David Luiz is also available. Alex, Benayoun and Zhirkov continue on the sidelines after long-standing injuries.
Liverpool's new addition Suarez will expect to start against Chelsea, after scoring on his debut. However, the Reds will be without Carroll and Spearing through injuries, while Poulsen and ex-Chelsea man Joe Cole are doubtful.
Match Facts -
Liverpool haven't scored at the Bridge in the league on their last five visits since 2008, and that was an own goal by Jose Bosingwa! The two teams are no strangers to each other having met 27 times in all competitions since October 2004 with Chelsea holding 12 wins to Liverpool's eight.
It'll be a battle all over the pitch, with many eyes glued to Torres. Whether the pressure will get to the Spaniard remains to be seen, but playing at home gives Chelsea the advantage, and a 1-0 home win it is.