Deciders: Ten players who could sway Chelsea vs. Liverpool
In January, Raul Meireles ceremoniously ushered in the latest Kenny Dalglish era. This year, another Red will have to step-up if Liverpool's to repeat their January feat - not that Chelsea's squad are ready to let that happen. Here are the 10 players most likey to define this year's rematch.
Raul Meireles, M, Chelsea
May as well start with Raul. Last time these teams met, a second half goal from Meireles was all that separated them. Having turned in his red kit for blue in August, Meireles could be in a position to steal those three points back, provided he's chosen. Amidst Andre-Villas Boas's rotating ways, Meireles has appeared in only eight matches for his countryman, a subtle irony given a potential lack of playing time (as well as a contract dispute) is what sent the midfielder to the southeast at the season's onset.
Dirk Kuyt, F, Liverpool
While Dirk Kuyt's placing in the starting XI is no longer secure, the Dutch workhorse has a knack for delivering when Liverpool really needs it. Having scored double-digits goals every years since moving to Liverpool in the summer of 2006, Kuyt's workrate and opportunism could prove decisive in a tight game against an opposition defense that can be exploited.
Fernando Torres, F, Chelsea
While Torres has struggled since his move to Chelsea, his speed could prove troublesome for Liverpool's defense. Last time the teams met, Kenny Dalglish had three centerbacks to help deal with the problem. Likely to go with only two on Sunday, Torres will have his chances running at former teammates Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher.
Steven Gerrard, M, Liverpool
Just coming back from long-term injury, Liverpool's captain still has to show he is the player that many dubbed the best of a golden-ish generation. Even if he's not back to back Stevie G, this a a match Gerrard could sway. With the possible exception of Chelsea's Didier Drogba, Gerrard is the one man in this match you don't want to give a chance standing on top of a dead ball. As tight as this affair should be, Gerrard will get his shots.
Juan Mata, F, Chelsea
One of the biggest differences between this meeting's and January's will be Mata. Chelsea's best attacking player will get plenty of chances to run at Jamie Carragher and Martin Kelly. Where the best have trouble with the young Spanish international, Kelly and Carragher will need exceptional games to contain Chelsea's most creative players.
Pepe Reina, G, Liverpool
In most big games in recent memory, Liverpool's needed two or three big saves from Pepe Reina to get their big results. It's par for the course of the Spaniard, one of the world's most athletic `keepers - a player who has been the Reds' most consistent contributor since being brought in during the summer of `05. While Liverpool could strangle three points our of the Bridge on Sunday, the more likely upset scenario sees Reina playing a big role in stymieing the Blues.
Frank Lampard, M, Chelsea
Scour Chelsea's goal scoring leaders and you see a lot of threes, twos, a scattering of ones before Lampard's total jumps out: six. For all the talk of waning performance (the guy is 33, after all), Lampard is still finding goal, something Spain experienced earlier this week.
Lucas Leiva, M, Liverpool
Where Chelsea still often relay on robust buildup through midfield, Lucas Leiva will be their biggest obstacle. The anchor of Liverpool's midfield, Leiva has developed into one of the best at his position in England and is capable of forcing Chelsea to quickly resort to Plan B. For a Blues team that still has trouble build from outside-in (wide-to-middle), the presence of Lucas is a significant problem.
John Terry, D, Chelsea
Another Chelsea veteran many seem intent on writing off early, Terry has a knack of performing when it matters most, often finding goals delivering on set pieces. Liverpool's lack of burners could help Terry assert himself on Sunday, and if Andy Carroll starts for Kenny Dalglish, Terry will have a chance to go mano-a-mano with somebody who will test the defender's physicality.
Luis Suarez, F, Liverpool
To say Suarez will be the most dangerous player on the field on Sunday probably understates the case. A better indicator of his potential will be the trepidation-laden buzz you hear from the Stamford Bridge crowd every time Suarez touches the ball. Having scored four goals in a recent World Cup qualifier, Suarez is in match-defining form.