High stakes in play at Stamford Bridge
With fourteen left to play this season, Liverpool cannot afford to drop more points if it has any hope of playing in Europe next year. A Champions League slot seems a stretch, and at this point most of the Anfield faithful would accept a berth in the second-tier Europa League.
Without European competition -- and the revenue it brings to clubs -- Liverpool is going to struggle to retain its biggest names. New owner John Henry and NESV, who also run the Boston Red Sox, claimed they wanted a “Moneyball” style approach to running the club, which is also in need of a new stadium to increase revenue. Their transfer activity put the lie to that notion, but the Reds are not endlessly wealthy.
Chelsea, on the other hand, has no such money constraints. Owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, the team has shown a willingness to spend big to win now, as shown by their capture of Torres. But after a fast start, Chelsea kicked off a deep swoon by losing to Liverpool and endured that thirteen-match fallow stretch with losses to Arsenal, Birmingham, Sunderland, Marseille and Wolverhampton and draws with Everton, Newcastle and Aston Villa.
Chelsea has finally started the turnaround after the worst loss of all -- a 1-0 defeat on January 5 by then-last place Wolverhampton thanks to Jose Bosingwa’s own goal that forced the team to publicly stand behind manager Carlo Ancelotti. Since then, the Blues have won three straight, including a lopsided 7-0 FA Cup win against Ipswich and a 4-0 thumping of sinking Bolton.
Liverpool finally has a couple of wins under its belt, but neither were convincing. An own goal gave the Reds a slender victory over Fulham in their last Premier League match, and before that, Torres finally rediscovered a little of his touch in a 3-0 win against bottom-dwellers Wolverhampton.
Too common have been the skunkings. The low point might have been the 2-1 defeat to Blackpool on the 12th of January, or, perhaps Blackburn’s 3-1 dismantling of the squad a week prior, which was the end of manager Roy Hodgson’s tenure. Fact is there have been too many low points to recount, and Reds fans are vocally craving any sort of sign that their team can succeed.
Liverpool’s road record is awful. They have but two wins away from home and have dropped 24 points on the road. Chelsea is stuttering, but have only lost once this season at Stamford Bridge in Premier League play.
Reds fans have to hope their boys can produce something special in light of those statistics.
Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and European football.