Liverpool vs. Chelsea: 4 Key Battles to Watch
When Liverpool come against their new foes Chelsea this Sunday, it's more a case of individual battles which decide the outcome of the game, rather than the team. And this of course, makes it a unique clash.
Chelsea's star men reside in the midfield—with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard the obvious stars—while Liverpool tend to rely on Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez, the top scorer in the Premier League this season, and his supplier Steven Gerrard.
But while they are the star men, goals and moments of brilliance can come from unlikely sources. As a result, it's key to focus not on the most important players, but to narrow down on the key battles.
After Chelsea's impressive 3-0 away win at Fulham on Wednesday, confidence will be high in the Blues camp, with Rafa Benitez readying his side for another tough away test.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will be familiar with some of the opposition players, as he was a former Chelsea youth coach himself, and will be looking to pit his knowledge up against his former colleagues in search for a victory.
The game is poised to be an enthralling encounter, and it doesn't usually let us down. So let's take a look at what could be the determining battles of the match.
Steven Gerrard vs. Frank Lampard
After sitting comfortably next to each other in England's midfield for the past decade, the question once again arises over who is better: Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard?
It's difficult to measure what makes a player better than another, but certainly over the past few seasons, Lampard has experienced more success both individually and with his team, with three Premier League titles and a Champions League winners' medal to his name.
On the other hand, Gerrard is only 32—two years junior of the evergreen Lampard—and is the current England captain. Despite being younger, the Merseyside-born star has already surpassed the coveted 100-cap mark for England, while Lampard sits frustratingly on 95.
The important figure is how many goals they have scored, and in that category the Chelsea man is a clear winner. Former West Ham midfielder Lampard has astonishingly scored over 10 Premier League goals in his last 10 seasons; a phenomenal record for a midfielder. Gerrard, however, has only managed to reach that total three times in his Liverpool career.
But enough of the statistics, these two are without a doubt fantastic players, and it would be difficult for anyone to find better passers of the ball than the veteran duo. Additionally, the professionalism they display on and off the pitch is another priceless attribute, with both Gerrard and Lampard staying loyal to their clubs when they could have moved elsewhere.
Off the pitch, these two are known to be good friends. Guarantee that when Sunday comes, however, they will not be for 90 minutes.
Daniel Agger vs. Fernando Torres
When Fernando Torres first moved to Chelsea in January 2011, his move was met with red-hot anger from the majority of the Liverpool faithful. Was it because they were angry at his decision to slap in a transfer request?
Perhaps. Or it could've been that they were deeply upset that the club had decided to cash in on their £50 million-rated striker. Either way, they were unhappy.
And so, when Torres made his first appearance against his former club just weeks after signing, the team were instructed to get physical, the fans booed his every touch and the intention was to ensure Torres did not have a happy return. They got what they asked for.
The man tasked with the idea of stopping Torres was Daniel Agger, and of course the rest of the Liverpool team. But the Dane was handed the opportunity to man mark the Spaniard and he frustrated him, as you can see above.
Now, two years later, it will be up to the former Brondby center half to stop the revitalized Spaniard, who has 19 goals this season, from notching against his former club.
His ability in the air may be limited due to the towering frame of Agger, so it may be a more favorable approach for Chelsea to pass into Torres' feet and use him as a target man.
It's going to be an excellent game, isn't it?
Glen Johnson vs. Eden Hazard
Here we have two pacy players—Eden Hazard and Glen Johnson—who both like to attack. One is a winger, the other a defender. The question is: Who will come out on top?
Based on current form, the likely answer is Hazard.
The Belgium international is your typical explosive winger, running with pace, agility and positive direction. His ability to drop the shoulder means that Johnson cannot afford to stay too close, but equally, his blistering speed means he cannot be too far away either.
Goals recently against Manchester United and West Ham have suggested that he is starting to combine both scoring and providing with his role as a left winger, as before he was more unselfish and focused on delivering assists for his teammates. As a result, he is now in full swing after his £32 million move from Lille last summer.
But Johnson has been around for a long time, and has come up against Hazard before, back in September 2010 when Liverpool played his former club in the Champions League. As a consequence, the England full back knows what he is coming up against.
Let's not forget that 28-year-old Johnson is also an attacking force, surging towards the edge of the penalty and occasionally unleashing a thunderbolt into the top corner from range. So Hazard may find himself tracking back to halt the ex-West Ham man from racing down the right.
A battle of speed, no doubt; it will be a joy to observe.
Luis Suarez vs. John Terry
In the image above, Luis Suarez leaves John Terry writhing in agony after an accidental collision, a tackle which ended his night and kept him out for three months.
Now Terry will be looking to exact revenge by keeping out the Premier League's top goal scorer and snuffing out any moves from the tricky Uruguayan, but it won't be an easy task by any means.
Suarez, who has scored 22 league goals this season, is in terrific form and has a trademark trick whereby he fakes a shot and subsequently nutmegs his opponent. In any case, it gives some insight as to why the 26-year-old is top of the list for winning penalties this season.
However, the former Ajax forward is experiencing something of a drought at the moment, not scoring since the 3-2 victory over Tottenham on March 10. But if anything, that is more of a danger than an advantage for Chelsea, as Suarez will be desperate to score.
Without him—Suarez is responsible for 37 percent of Liverpool's goals this season—the Reds are just not the same. And while he may be on the pitch, Terry will be hoping he can keep him quiet.
The key will be whether he can stay tight to Suarez for the whole game. While he is agile and possesses a low center of gravity, it is possible to stop him with some forceful challenges.
Rafa Benitez would have studied the controversial striker in great detail, and with some hope, Chelsea and Terry can keep him quiet.