KICKOFF: 12:15 EST Saturday, 5:15 BST
TV: FSC here in the colonies, BBC and Sky Sports in the Old Empire
THOSE ROMAN HASN'T BOUGHT: We Ain't Got No History
It took Nate at Oh You Beauty to point this out, because I hadn't realized it, but every trophy that Liverpool have won since Rafa Benitez strolled in has involved beating Chelsea at some point to get there. Sounds good, I'll have that.
We'll get to the meaning of all this and how it will define the season later, if that can be even figured out. As for the team Kenny Dalglish picks, I think we all have the one we want him to and the one we fear he will. The former doesn't have Jamie Carragher in the stadium. The latter has him in the lineup. However, Johnson-Agger-Skrtel-Enrique has been the first choice backline when everyone's fit, and I can't fathom why that would change now. Dalglish gave Carragher the semifinal, pretty much only because he was "Jamie Carragher", and we know how that went. That should be the only lesson needed.
In the two matches between the clubs this year, both at The Bridge, Liverpool have employed something of a five-man midfield. Either in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 or something, probably because that's the lineup Chelsea employ as well. While this is a slightly different Chelsea under Di Matteo than the one we saw under AVB, he always goes with a 4-2-3-1. I can't see Dalglish opting to be outnumbered in midfield because of that.
So obviously, Gerrard is a cert. After that, I can't help you. You would have thought Jay Spearing would be close to automatic, being the only thing resembling a holding midfielder in the squad now. But he was so groin-grabbingly bad against Fulham, even that's up for question. While some took Jordan Henderson's hauling off at halftime as a comment on his performance, I took it as rest for a likely start Saturday. He was the only midfielder to start against both Norwich and Fulham, and it smacked of resting him to me. And Henderson in the middle is better than Henderson out wide. So Gerrard-Henderson-Spearing/Shelvey (who wasn't much better than Spearing on Tuesday) is your middle three.
For the rest? I'd like to think it'll be Carroll-Suarez-Bellamy. But the policy has generally been to press Chelsea all over, as their defense can get wonky with the ball under pressure. That wouldn't seem to include Carroll, as well as Dalglish's preference to not have both Carroll and Suarez as part of a front three. But Liverpool are simply better with all three of Suarez, Gerrard, and Carroll starting together. Furthermore, beyond the three I've suggested, Downing and Kuyt have been simply terrible of late, and Maxi isn't trusted (for some reason). Maxi-Suarez-Bellamy wouldn't send me into orbit, as that's the trio that gave Chelsea so many problems in the league game, as well as Bellamy and Maxi doing so again in the League Cup Quarterfinal.
To Chelsea then. While the headline writers would love to see Torres start and score against Liverpool, his inclusion on Wednesday against Newcastle almost certainly means that Drogba will spearhead the attack. David Luiz and Gary Cahill will miss out, or at least that's the way it looks.
The funny thing about Chelsea, and this is admittedly through my very jaded eyes, is that their lineup will be populated by players I think are bordering on hilariously terrible. Ivanovic will slide into the middle with Terry, and he's a better right back than center back. Terry hasn't been a star in years, and can be exposed in any number of ways that everyone ignores because he yells a lot. John Obi Mikel may keep Michael Essien out of the lineup for reasons I can't possibly fathom. One of those two will partner Frank "I just need someone to bank this freekick off of" Lampard behind Juan Mata, who is the opposite of terrible. Florent Malouda and Kalou will contend for the other spot opposite Ramires, but I don't know what the difference is between either of them.
But through Mata, Drogba, the on-fire Ramires, and Lampard, as well as the rampaging of Ashely Cole, there is certainly more than enough to hurt Liverpool here. Still, you saw on Wednesday how a lively, mobile striker like Papiss Cisse can give Chelsea problems, and Suarez should have been giggling at the sight of that. Chelsea will be dangerous on set pieces for sure, and Drogba can conjure something from nothing at any moment. Keeping Cole from joining the attack regularly will be paramount, probably another reason we'll see Suarez through the middle with either Bellamy or Kuyt trying to keep Cole at bay (gag).
Winning may or may not change how we'll view the season as a whole. Losing most certainly won't. The details to that can come after.
Now? We need new dreams and songs to sing....