There are some games that are absolute "must wins" for a club. Generally, it's to keep a spot in the top four or to avoid relegation.
Then there are the many derby's that extend bragging rights to fans of the winning club. These can be just as acrimonious, and intense, as matches that have a strong bearing on standings.
Finally, there are the matches that simply say something about a club and its players.
Sunday was just such a game for Chelsea against Liverpool.
In case you've been living in a cave for a week, here's a brief recap of what happened: Fernando Torres, Liverpool's star striker, demanded to be traded 72 hours prior to the transfer deadline. Liverpool, apparently not wanting to deal him, demanded a 50 million pound fee for his services (most likely thinking that nobody would pay that kind of sum for his services).
The rest is history as Roman Abramovich and his billions of dollars safely secured the rights to Fernando Torres just 15 minutes prior to the transfer deadline.
Torres, apparently taking lessons from Roy Hodgson, continually put his foot in house mouth all week long leading up to a home match with Liverpool on Sunday. First, by saying that Chelsea were a "big club" and then by saying he was a professional footballer and he didn't care what club he played for, as long as they won.
No exactly the kinds of words to endear himself to new Chelsea supporters.
So on Sunday, Chelsea was presented with one of those "must win" situations. They were playing at home against a Liverpool side that was nine points behind them for the fourth spot; they had Torres and David Luiz (a 21 m pound defender also signed just ahead of the transfer deadline); they needed the win to try and catch a flubbing Arsenal (who tied) and Manchester United (who lost to Wolves).
It was the perfect scenario to show the rest of the league they now had the premier club in the Premiership and had a solid return on investment for all those millions spent on transfer fees.
I wonder if Roman is having buyers remorse?
Yes, if you haven't read, Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 on their home ground at Stamford Bridge. It really should have been 2-0 if Maxi Rodriguez chips in a ball to an open goal from a yard away (absolutely no idea how he missed that).
But it was the way Liverpool seemed to be in control of the game that must have sent Roman running for his vodka cabinet.
Torres not only looked lethargic and disinterested, he looked absolutely lost on offense. He had one scoring opportunity on a beautiful through ball from Didier Drogba—a ball that three years ago he would have settled and put away safely in the net. Instead, Jamie Carragher easily blocked the shot and sent it back to mid-field.
That was as good as it got for Torres.
Yes, the manager of Chelsea, Carlos Ancellotti, immediately came to the defense of Torres and said he "needed time to adjust".
Roy Hodgson is still waiting for Torres to adjust and look where that got him.
The Torres I saw against Chelsea is a carbon copy of the Torres I've watched all season for Liverpool. He looks aloof, bored, and not at all interested in working for the ball. At his best, Torres is one of the most exciting strikers in the game, but he depends on an enormous work rate. Many of his goals come by simply outworking defenders for the ball.
As for the rest of the Chelsea players, they were quite simply outclassed by Liverpool. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Liverpool put on a late-season run into the final four if they keep playing like this. The defense is without a doubt the best it's looked all season (with four straight clean sheet to it's credit). Jamie Carragher smothered everything in sight and the likes of Skrtel, Agger, and Kelly played very smart defense. Glen Johnson continues to scare me with his deep runs, but so far it's paid off.
Then there's the play of Kuyt and Meireles up front. After two games of playing in the forward position, I have to seriously wonder why Kuyt hasn't been playing up front for years? His spacing and patience are amazing. As always, he puts in a tremendous amount of work. Miereles, with four goals in five games, is starting to look like an absolute bargain for an 11m transfer fee.
After the game, Kenny Dalglish openly wondered if Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll could crack the starting line-up. Wow!
I hate to say it, but I wonder where this squad might be if Kenny Dalglish had been given the reins at the start of the season rather than mid-way?
As for Chelsea, they looked like a divided and despondent squad. Where was Kalou? Drogba? Malouda? They certainly didn't seem like they wanted to be playing in such an important game. They put on a brief spurt to start the second half, other than that, Chelsea played on their heels most of the game in a game they couldn't afford to lose.
I don't like their chances to make the final four moving forward. At this point, Tottenham look the more inspired side and Liverpool could make a late season run.
Fernando Torres has to get back into form and get back fast. Yes, it's a new club, but he comes in with a 50 million pound price tag as a season player who should have the ability to immediately make a difference. If he doesn't, and continues to play in a languid and squeamish fashion, he risks alienating his teammates and allowing Chelsea to fall to even deeper depths.