For Chelsea this is just about where it all started to go wrong. November 7th, a visit to Anfield, facing a relatively new manager and Chelsea lost 2-0 to a couple of goals scored by a Liverpool player called Fernando Torres.
Three months on and Sunday we have the return fixture at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool with a “relatively” new manager and even before he takes to the field Fernando Torres will again be the centre of attention.
Modest rallies over the last few weeks have offered encouragement to both sets of fans. Chelsea have won three Premier League matches in a row (anyone remember when it was routine?) while Liverpool have strung together a draw on the front end of three consecutive wins.
While both sides look to move up the table (Chelsea currently 4th and Liverpool 7th) they will both be very aware that games like this one will have a profound impact on their progress or lack thereof.
Going into this season most Liverpool supporters would have considered a return to the top four as a minimum achievement for 2010/11. But with a third of the season remaining Chelsea occupy the treasured spot, have a nine point lead and have played a game less.
The gap is gigantic and only the most optimistic fringe of Liverpool fans can see the ground already lost being made up. Liverpool still has Spurs, United and City to come to Anfield while they have to travel to Sunderland and Arsenal.
With their remaining schedule a significant factor, a win at Stamford Bridge may encourage more to dream but anything less and European ambition will be limited to the Europa League – this season and next.
Chelsea received further encouragement in midweek when Manchester City dropped two points away to Birmingham. City has now dropped a point more than Chelsea. Saturday’s results offered further incentive to Chelsea with Arsenal imploding and allowing a four goal lead to evaporate while Manchester United suffered a first loss of the season to Wolves.
Chelsea needs both Arsenal and Manchester United to stumble again during the run in if they are to retain their title – that would be the one so many were willing to hand to them after 10 games this season.
Opportunity still knocks when it comes to United who have to face Chelsea twice. However, six points in these two games might be mandatory given the current 10 point gap.
Home games against City and Tottenham also await Chelsea while Sunderland and Arsenal are already done for.
Whoever takes three points on Sunday can continue to dream – anything less and the best they can hope for will be more restless nights.
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