Liverpool and Chelsea renew their rivalry on Tuesday in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semifinal at Anfield. The two teams have become regular and fierce foes in the past decade, beginning with the final of the League Cup in 2005 when Chelsea claimed an extra-time win over Liverpool to give José Mourinho his first trophy in England. It proved the springboard for Chelsea to go on and win the Premier League title that season. And, five points clear at the top after a 5-0 win at Swansea City on Saturday, Mourinho will be hoping to repeat that formula by claiming his first trophy in his second spell at the club before going onto bigger honors come the season’s end.
In contrast, the League Cup represents Liverpool’s best chance of getting some silverware this season. First, though, they will have to get past a Chelsea team that agonizingly denied the Merseysiders a first league title in 24 years last season. With the destination of the championship in their grasp heading into the final three games of the season, Liverpool suffered a catastrophic defeat at home to Mourinho’s men thanks to captain Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip to allow Demba to run through and score.
For Gerrard, who along with Mario Balotelli will have his fitness assessed ahead of Tuesday’s encounter, it was yet another huge disappointment against Chelsea following his own goal in the 2005 League Cup final. The 34-year-old, who will leave for LA Galaxy at the end of the season, has been the target of abuse from Chelsea fans on the back of his misery last year. But Mourinho, who has again expressed his regret at failing to bring Gerrard to Chelsea 10 years ago, urged his club’s fans to lay off the Anfield legend.
“The song that my fans have I don't like at all,” Mourinho said, reports Sky Sports. “A couple of times it is good fun but to go and go and go, especially with a player like him who deserves respect, I don't think you don't need that.
“We have so many other songs, you don't need that one. I love this quote when he was saying in his life he would never score a goal against Liverpool. I love these words. I understand why he was -- almost, almost, almost -- coming to Chelsea. But he didn't and I respect that a lot.”
Brendan Rodgers continued that theme by stating that he has “huge respect” for Mourinho, who appointed the Liverpool manager as Chelsea’s youth team coach in 2004. However, the Northern Irishman, who criticized the negativity of Chelsea’s performance at Anfield last April before apologizing, explained that their relationship had now very much shifted to one of rivals.
Liverpool have fallen some way short of rivaling Chelsea in the Premier League this campaign, as last season’s runners-up have struggled to replicate those performances. Liverpool sit in eighth place in the Premier League, but, with just one defeat in their last 14 outings in all competitions, their form is on the up and Rodgers explained that his pre-season ambitions remain in place.
“Our objective is still very much to win a trophy and qualify for the Champions League,” he said, reports Liverpool’s official website. “Winning a trophy, for us, would help our future here -- what we're trying to build and deliver. It would give the younger players a lot of experience. We know these two games are going to be a challenge, but we know that if you want to win the competition you have to beat the best teams.”
Prediction: Both teams are expected to field at least close to full-strength lineups, making this a proper heavyweight semifinal encounter. Ahead of the second leg next week at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea have failed to win just once in 15 matches in all competitions this season, Liverpool surely need a positive result. They may fancy their chances of getting it, too, having improved considerably since switching to a 3-4-2-1 formation, allowing Emre Can to add composure to the defense and more fluidity to the team’s passing going forward. Yet vulnerability at the back remains and, if Chelsea reproduce the stunning attacking interchanges between Cesc Fabregas, Oscar and Diego Costa they showed against Swansea then they will be difficult to stop. Still, Chelsea’s away form before their trip to Wales was less than impressive and Mourinho may not be too disappointed to come away from Anfield with a draw.
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EST
TV channel: beIN Sports
Live stream: beIN Sports Connect