What a difference a transfer window makes. Chelsea last visited Anfield in late April around six months ago and Liverpool were favourites going into that game. Now Liverpool are among a clutch of clubs with designs on reaching the land of milk and honey but far from challenging José Mourinho's league leaders. Before the game that effectively ended Liverpool's title challenge last season, a question bounced around: "Is there logic in fearing Mourinho's Chelsea?"
Chelsea represent what we don't want for Liverpool FC. We have history and class, we're traditionalists and want to build in a sustainable way without sacking managers every five seconds. For Chelsea, Liverpool endlessly bleat about a history that bears little relevance to the present while they crow with a smirk about having no history as they continue to build/buy (depending on your viewpoint) a future history that will be littered with trophies. Both sets of fans generally find the other quite insufferable and it's an interesting rivalry; a clash of footballing cultures.
Since that harrowing and galling defeat against Chelsea, Liverpool haven't quite been the same for numerous reasons and witness a terse tale of miniature woe. Steven Gerrard's lack of precise control in a crucial position on the field and subsequent slip, the futility in attempting to find an equaliser, the late goal on the counter that provided that sinking feeling usually accompanying a disappointing rejection of some kind, the collapse at Crystal Palace, the deathly procession of a victory at home to Newcastle, Luis Suarez biting and leaving, Liverpool's seemingly impressive yet currently underwhelming transfer window, false reassurances in August with hopeful performances against difficult opposition, and the lack of any sustained form to lift the spirits since August's fire faded away into the unrecoverable passage of time.
Did Mourinho do this? Was his dastardly influence so far reaching that the legend of the Big Bad Wolf was indeed something to be feared? The Special One would probably react to this jittery and insecure line of questioning with the wryest of smiles, simultaneously softening his powers while self-consciously hinting of an as yet unacknowledged master plan. Perhaps there should be a film to extol his managerial talents. José Mourinho: Architect of Destruction. Now in cinemas on eardrum-destroying IMAX and needless 3D. Book now for advance tickets and get 0.1% off offensively expensive popcorn. One highbrow paper originally described the film as "a triumph" while another humbly declared that Mourinho "produced his best touchline performance since FC Porto" without a strand of doubt.
Although, the league season isn't nearing a definitive conclusion, Chelsea remain unbeaten. Liverpool aren't going into the game with the irksome "nothing to lose" tag because Liverpool cannot continue on this early decade trajectory of mediocrity for much longer. Losing to Chelsea will not terminate Liverpool's top four quest but will increase the difficulty in achieving such desires. It has been quite the descent when it seemed that Liverpool were close to being back to being feared and relevant at the most ferocious end of the Premier League table. Maybe Liverpool fans were talking far too much after only a season of genuine menace after years of relative misery and this is the penance for such misbegotten hubris. Such lessons should be well-observed if Liverpool manage to climb out of this sickening pit of sixth or seventh-placed muck.
For Brendan Rodgers, a victory would bring relief after failing to provide answers for his side and cast his recent media critics as inexperienced proponents of managerial 101. A draw would be somewhat achievable considering that Chelsea's form over the past few weeks hasn't been as inspiring as it was previously. Failure to protect single goal leads in Manchester on two occasions in the Premier League may give Liverpool prime cutlets of belief and unheralded Maribor found Chelsea charitable enough to snare a point. Premier League strugglers QPR and League Two Shrewsbury Town made Chelsea fight for victories in late October. Has the time come for Chelsea to sip from the goblet of defeat like every other Premier League club?
The problem is that Rodgers still has not bested Chelsea in his tenure at Liverpool and Mourinho appears to understand how to deal with any threats his former apprentice can concoct alongside Colin Pascoe. Chelsea are the club Liverpool increasingly love to hate but once again, what is there to be afraid of?
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