Since the birth of a rivalry between Chelsea and Liverpool a little more than a decade ago, there has rarely been an insignificant fixture between the two teams.
Liverpool’s trio of semi final wins in the Champions League and FA Cup twice denied Jose Mourinho an opportunity to contest a European Cup final with Chelsea, and also a chance to win the club’s first league and cup double.
Chelsea’s successes in the fixture include the aggregate victories secured over Liverpool in the Champions League in 2008 and 2009, the former of which denied a Liverpool v Man United final. In 2010, Carlo Ancelotti’s league and cup double winning side all but secured the title with a win at Anfield, and a famous Chelsea win on the same ground in May 2014, saw Mourinho’s team issue a blow that handed the initiative back to Manchester City in a title race that Liverpool led with only a week of the season to play.
That Liverpool finished ahead of Chelsea for only the second time in 12 seasons was of no consolation, and order was restored last season with Chelsea comfortably claiming a fourth Premier League title as Liverpool slumped to a sixth place finish.
Neither side have impressed this year, but it’s the form of Chelsea that has dominated the headlines so far, having endured the worst start to a season of any team defending a league title in the Premier League era.
An early exit in the League Cup this week won’t do anything to ease the pressure on both the team and its manager, but a home match against Liverpool could be a perfect fixture in which to earn a morale-boosting win.
Liverpool started the season well, but currently sit in mid-table, with performances having deserved nothing more. A record of just two defeats in 15 competitive games that have included trips to Arsenal, Everton, Spurs and Man United would ordinarily represent a good return, but a flurry of tame draws against supposedly weaker opponents has been the main theme of Liverpool’s season so far.
With so many points dropped by teams who would be expected to be in contention for the top four, it could be considered a missed opportunity that Liverpool haven’t capitalized and taken the chance to put even more pressure on the likes of a struggling Chelsea.
That’s why the meeting between the two is such a big game already, for as poor as Chelsea have been, they’ll move above Liverpool in the league with a win on Saturday. And most neutral fans would still consider the Stamford Bridge side to be stronger than Liverpool as the season progresses.
A win for Liverpool meanwhile would open up a gap of six points between the teams, and pile even more misery on a club that is experiencing more than most in the Premier League.
With a successful defence of the title looking less and less likely, the target for now is fourth place, and although Jose Mourinho is making no guarantees of securing a Champions League place for next season, there’s no reason to believe that it’s not still a realistic possibility with so much of the season remaining.
But a defeat to Liverpool – a side with similar ambitions – would be a huge setback, and that’s why tomorrow’s lunchtime fixture is one of the biggest games so far this season.