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Who Will Get the Better Birthday Present?

José Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers face off in the League Cup semi-final a day after both men celebrated their birthdays. Who will add a final to a slice of cake?

Michael Regan/Getty Images

The years Brendan Rodgers spent with José Mourinho is well-documented. Liverpool's current manager spent four years at Chelsea as a youth coach and later reserve team manager between 2004 and 2008. During that time, Rodgers forged a close friendship with one of the biggest managers and personalities in the game, José Mourinho. The two retain a mutual respect, even if there is greater distance between the two as managers of high-profile clubs in England, that most likely will not change for the foreseeable future.

The whole master and apprentice angle is an interesting one, and the two even share the same birthday. If both remain at their respective clubs for a few more seasons, the nature of their relationship could drastically change. It is an unlikely prospect, but frostiness and spite may reign in the years to come if both managers engage in increasingly more fraught and bitter duels. What is a desirable development among Liverpool fans, is for games against Chelsea to truly matter. The London club currently exists to win under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, where title challenges and deep runs in the Champions League is expected from a manager. Such runs and challenges must bring silverware. Or else.

Not all clubs are set up or run in the same way. A Liverpool manager shouldn't be sacked for failing to win a trophy or falling short of a title challenge. That's for Manchester City and Chelsea. What Liverpool could do, now this won't always be possible each and every season, is stand in the way. That may not seem ambitious, but take a moment to think about it. Standing in the way gives you a chance. Standing in the way means you can win. Standing in the way can only exist if you're viewed as an obstacle and a threat. Get past us. It won't be easy and it won't be fun. That's what Liverpool were in the Champions League for Mourinho's Chelsea in the Rafa Benítez era. The games may not have been entertaining for Jorge Valdano, but Liverpool were a threat that were difficult to best.

Watching the first leg last week was a wondrous experience. Liverpool pushed, pressed, and didn't look fragile in defence. The game was competitive and exciting. Any neutral who watched the game wouldn't want their team to play Liverpool in that kind of mood. The surprise title challenge in 2014/15 looked like it brought the respect and excitement back, and even with the struggles of the season to date, that can still continue this season. Liverpool might not have the finishing capabilities in the absence of Daniel Sturridge to consistently capitalise on chances created against opponents asking to be thrashed, but can stride forward from years of trying mediocrity.

Last season, Liverpool faced Chelsea with home advantage further propelling expectations of victory. They got in our way. It's time for Liverpool to kindly return the favour. After all, a victory is the best way for Brendan Rodgers to wash down that birthday cake.

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