A Liverpool side that has Forrest Gumped its way to three straight wins faces a much sterner test on Sunday morning. In fact, there may not be a tougher hurdle around right now other than Real Madrid. I hate these games, the difference in quality these days is kind of hurtful.
If you're looking for positives, Chelsea's last couple away dates haven't been jaw dropping. Last time out, they barely got out of Ewood Park alive, and if Jason Roberts had more awareness of where the net was than a sloth on quaaludes they probably would have not even gained a point. But Roberts missed, Ivanovic met a cross and three more points in the bag. That's a facet in the other category, in that Chelsea don't really have to play that well to beat Liverpool -- unless the Reds are completely on song, which is something we haven't seen since....May '09? Chelsea are masters at just walking off with a result, no matter the performance.
The thought of Anelka and Malouda, who was just declared fit, raining down on Konchesky and Glen Johnson -- if can manage two games in four days -- makes me reach for the vinegar (a wonderful if torturous heartburn cure). If Johnson can't make it that means Carragher is out there, and that's not much better. Oh, and Drogba clubbing Skrtel all over the pitch. Skrtel really struggles with the physicality of Drogba, which means Kyrgiakos may take more of the responsibility, but that's not good for anyone.
Lampard is out, at least, and Essien is questionable. If neither make it Liverpool will face a midfield three of Mikel, Zhirkov, and Ramires. That's encouraging, as Lucas has been excellent recently and Gerrard and Meireles add to that. Gerrard seemingly never can exhibit his best against Chelsea, partly due to having Essien cannibalize him. Without Essien he might find more space, but I'd really like to see all three midfielders rotate throughout the match because they all can play anywhere in the center. Just because Rafa Benitez thought Lucas was a holding midfielder doesn't make it so. It'll also make them harder to pick up.
Still, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, and Cole are a fortress, and with Torres only providing a flicker of quality each match, it's hard to see Liverpool scoring more than once. They'll need another competent performance from Maxi and I'm not holding my breath. On the other side Kuyt might make it back, and he'll at least provide a threat to score from there even if he's not a genuine winger. But Pool's face-palm defending from set pieces is another panic when considering Ivanovic's, Terry's, Alex's, Drogba's and others prowess at meeting crosses.
I'll be watching from behind the couch.