They’ve got some history. These two seem to come together more often than a P45 lands on the desk of the Chelsea manager’s desk. Things have quietened down considerably since the days when the Special One and Rafa Benitez were at each other’s egos. Still though, you’d imagine it could all come flooding back quicker than you can say ‘cultural misunderstanding’ if someone says the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Out of nowhere, Liverpool have become cup specialists. Although, to some that just means they’re slightly less rubbish in the cups than they are in the league. Kenny Dalglish’s attempts to improve their Premier League ranking has gone as smoothly as the club’s handling of casual racism. The cups have provided comfort and that winning feeling they haven’t been able to get much of elsewhere.
On recent form, it’s hard not to fancy Chelsea. Yes, they flogged Lady Luck to within an inch of her life against Barcelona and lost to Papiss Cisse , but they’ve been much improved in general. Gone are the completely disinterested players who brought about the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas and in come the exact same players only with some semblance of motivation that have fired them to the Champions League Final. You might pencil in the Pensioners for an easy win, but there are reasons to think that view is about as accurate as a Charlie Adam penalty.
The recent history of meetings between the two clubs reflects well on Liverpool. In their last ten meetings with Chelsea, they’ve come out on top more often than not and generally at a decent price. Liverpool managed three successful trips to Stamford Bridge in 2011 from three attempts. Two of those wins came this season and one of those in a competition people actually care about. Reading too much into Carling Cup form is dodgier than Harry Redknapp’s financial arrangements, but the league win courtesy of a Glen Johnson cracker that few were expecting was far more notable.
In terms of betting, the biggest upset came last February, just days after Roman Abramovich decided he’d prefer Fernando Torres to having £50 million. A Liverpool team that featured an innovative 4-6-0 formation and still thought Christian Poulsen was good enough to be at the club snatched a 1-0 win at 5/1. In their last 10 meetings, all but one of Liverpool’s six victories have come at odds bigger than 2/1 and that’s similar territory to where they are for Saturday’s game (2/1).
Obviously this game is at Wembley and will be less gratingly cockney than Stamford Bridge. Focussing too much of the Reds recent pillaging of the Bridge may be misleading for a game on neutral soil. Liverpool have a 100% record from their two trips to new Wembley.
Equally though, Chelsea have a good recent record of handling the pomp, pressure and excessive amounts of hand-shaking that comes from big days out on the hallowed turf. Sadly though, backing them against Liverpool has been about as profitable as throwing your money into a roaring fire. They’ve been favourites in virtually all of their recent meetings with the Scousers and been more unreliable than a Luis Suarez testimony.
Chelsea are the worthy favourites, but Liverpool have reasons to justify their bristling confidence. Being the underdog doesn’t mean victory is impossible. Last week’s events at the Camp Nou told us that.