The years of Liverpool and Chelsea meeting in high-stakes Champions League matches with a frequency that was almost annoying have long gone, and while the four fixtures last season at least matched the quantity of those days on the surface, few of the matchups over the past few seasons have carried the weight that the two-legged ties in Europe did back when Liverpool were actually in the Champions League and Joe Cole did things that weren't entirely worthless.
That's not to say the fixtures haven't been nerve-wracking. Far from it, as each of the past four in league and two in domestic cup competition have offered some sort of emotional impact. Fernando Torres gave Liverpool a double in front of their new owners nearly two years ago to the day in what felt like a turning point, which turned sour when the striker left at the end of January after Kenny Dalglish had arrived and just days before the teams were set to meet at Stamford Bridge. Raul Meireles gave Liverpool the winner in a meeting that was all sorts of terrifying given the prospect of Torres netting against his former club, and when Meireles headed to Stamford Bridge over the summer there was even more to dread.
Last season's successes were plenty satisfying as well; Glen Johnson gave Liverpool the last minute winner just nine days before an inspired Craig Bellamy performance--two days after his close friend Gary Speed died--helped Liverpool progress to the semi-finals of the League Cup with a 2-0 victory. Chelsea got the win that matter most in the FA Cup Final in early May, but Liverpool exacted some measure of revenge in Dalglish's final match at Anfield in a 4-1 breeze.
All of which is a long way of recounting Roberto Di Matteo's reasoning for yesterday calling Liverpool Chelsea's "bogey team" ahead of their Sunday meeting, and perhaps to suggest that it's not a completely wild sentiment. One that might seem a bit out of order given the two clubs' drastically different starts to the Premier League season, but at least one that's grounded in some sort of reality.
Which is nice to consider given the relative pessimism on the Liverpool end of things; that might also be grounded in reality, but Di Matteo's comments at least serve as a reminder that optimism ahead of tomorrow might not be entirely ridiculous.