Club Focus – Chelsea – Season rests on Anfield display

After a win over Tottenham, Chelsea returned to seven heaven for the third time this season. Their death defying message to the Devils of Manchester will ring the heaven bells this weekend as the Blues swiftly glided back to top of the table.

The Premier League marathon is reaching its climax and with each game a sprint to the finish line, the pressure is on. Sir Alex Ferguson’s subtle mind-games of implying the pressure will be all but forgotten if Chelsea beat Liverpool at Anfield this weekend. As much as Ferguson wants the pressure to be on Chelsea he knows the race is out of his hands. The Mersey siders are unlikely to provide any favours for Chelsea even if their victory does amass to Manchester United stealing their record of Premier League triumphs. The game at Anfield is undoubtedly the most important game in United’s and Chelsea’s campaign, with a draw enough to provide United with the added impetus to strive for glory.

Chelsea, coming off the back of a 7-0 thumping of Stoke, must employ the same mentality in order to gain the three points against Liverpool. The quick paced start from the Blues, did not allow Stoke to settle nor could they gain any momentum, the Blues therefore dominated the ball throughout the game and capitalised on what became an exhausted Stoke side. The Potters were unbeaten in their previous six outings and Carlo Ancelotti was keen to get an early goal to prevent them from entering their usual rhythm. An all-out-attack approach was essential as anything less than a win would have put the ball back in United’s park.

The problem for Chelsea is how they will react away from home against sterner opposition. If Ancelotti opts to use a similar approach to that against Stoke, Chelsea will leave themselves susceptible to the counter attack which Liverpool proved can be lethal in their 4-0 win over Burnley. However if Chelsea begin too cautiously they may lose out on taking the momentum from Stoke with them, away from home consistency has been a major issue for Chelsea this season, this will however all be forgotten if they can rectify this at the weekend. Chelsea should take a similar approach to that against Stoke, with everything to lose the Blues must take the initiative against the red of Merseyside.

Off-the-field the PFA player of the year was announced, unsurprisingly despite the potent form of Didier Drogba. Branislav Ivanovic joined the Ivorian in the PFA team of the year and deservedly so, the versatile defender has shown his ability this season in the absence of Jose Bosingwa. Ivanovic played centre-back this weekend against Stoke and although rarely tested Pulis still had time to hail the powerful Blue as one of the best in the world. There is no doubt his determination and resolute defending have been a saviour to Chelsea’s injury plagued defence over the past week, the player will certainly have played a massive part in the Blues title surge this year. However the PFA team of the year failed to include long serving Frank Lampard. Lampard’s brace at the weekend, the second of supreme quality, brought his total to 25 league goals yet this went unnoticed in the PFA awards. Lampard was also overlooked last year for the awards yet his consistency provides stability in the Chelsea squad. His experience and awareness have helped nurture the talent of Jon Obi Mikel this season, whose discipline has greatly improved alongside his positional discipline in the midfield.

Lampard will be essential to Chelsea’s success this weekend against Liverpool the England International will meet his fellow compatriot Steven Gerrard in the middle of midfield, and it will surely be through one of these men that the result swings on. Drogba has a great record against the top clubs in England and his presence is likely to cause problems in the Liverpool back-line especially to Daniel Agger who has had a torrid time trying to contain the powerhouse in the past. Regardless of how well the side play, a win is crucial at the weekend. Anything less than a draw will send shivers across London and goose bumps to Manchester. A monumental game at stake, everything rests on the Anfield performance.

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