Stars will come out to play on Sunday

BY Jamie Trecker • February 4, 2011

Sunday’s clash between Big Four rivals Liverpool and Chelsea is a must-win clash made even hotter with three last-minute additions to the teams on a wild transfer deadline day.

Following is a quick look at some of the faces and personalities of the men you’ll see in 'The Game before the Game' (coverage begins at 10 a.m. ET on FSC), and what makes each of them among the best in the world at what they do.

LIVERPOOL

Luis Suarez: Acquired from Holland’s Ajax at the end of the transfer window for $35m, the Uruguayan striker could be just the tonic the listless Liverpool offense needs. Slight and speedy, he is surprisingly hard to prise the ball away from and can act as a target man up top.

But Suarez comes with baggage as he served a seven-game suspension in Holland for biting PSV’s Otman Bakkal’s shoulder in a strange on-field incident, and he is despised worldwide for deliberately handling a ball on the goal line to deny Ghana a win at last summer’s World Cup (his gamble was rewarded when Asamoah Gyan failed to sink the ensuing penalty kick attempt, and his gleeful celebrations did not endear him any further to "fair play" adherents).

Steven Gerrard: England’s captain and midfield engine, if anyone typifies the heart of Liverpool, it’s this guy. He’s the Ray Lewis of English football, and learned the same lessons the Ravens linebacker did.

Andy Carroll: You’ll hear a lot about this young man during the telecast, but a thigh injury will keep him sidelined. Carroll, who set a brief British transfer record of $56m when he joined Liverpool from Newcastle, is either a figure of great promise -- or the biggest joke signing in history. Carroll’s judgment has been questioned -- he was accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend and was once injured when he fell off a barstool after drinking Jaeger bombs -- but he is considered a rising talent. He has impressed for Newcastle with his speed and aerial prowess, but many consider him one-dimensional. Time will tell if this was a coup for Liverpool, or a grand folly.

Pepe Reina: One of the best 'keepers in England, the World-Cup winning Reina has been a rare island of stability in Liverpool’s chaotic season. A gifted shot-stopper and a great distributor, Reina has struggled with a frankly inept defense in front of him all season long, and only his athleticism and grace under pressure has saved him. He is said to be a high-priced target for Manchester United in the off-season, with a transfer value of around $30m.

CHELSEA

Fernando Torres: At just 26, the Spanish slasher was considered one of Liverpool’s all-time greats. We say “was,” because at the end of the transfer window, he jumped to Chelsea for a record-smashing $80m fee. During his time at Liverpool, Torres helped take Spain to two major championships, and arguably gave Liverpool all the offense it needed.

Didier Drogba: The Ivorian international was once the most feared striker in the English game, bar none. But after heroically playing in last summer’s World Cup with a fractured arm and enduring a bout of malaria, Drogba has seen his production trail off. He remains the club’s leading scorer in the league, but has shown only flashes of what once was transcendent brilliance. When Drogba is on, however, watch out -- he’s soccer’s equivalent of Jerome Bettis, and like they did against the former Steeler great, teams play to limit the damage Drogba inflicts.

Peter Cech: Once the world’s best goalkeeper, Cech has had a quiet season that unfairly reflects his gifts. Quiet might be for the best, for Cech almost died on the field of play after suffering a horrific head injury in 2006. Three months later, Cech made his return to the field in 2007 -- sporting a distinctive soft-style rugby helmet, which he continues to wear to this day to protect his softened skull.

One of the most gifted shot-stoppers of his generation, Cech’s air of invulnerability has been eroded this season because of the weakness of the defense in front of him. With defender Alex out injured, and John Terry having noticeably lost a step, Cech has been called on more and more to make the big saves. Fortunately, just 28, Cech is in the prime of his career and possesses both the agility and the experience to keep his team in games.

John Terry: The former England captain is known as Mr. Chelsea -- which is both good and bad. Good, because he has been one of the better defenders of his generation, at one time captaining the English national team. Bad, because that seems to have brought in feelings of entitlement, and Terry has, as a result, been involved in a fair amount of off-field drama.

He was sacked as the national team skipper when it came out that he had carried on an affair with a teammate’s girlfriend; he further complicated matters when he held a provocative press conference during the World Cup that undermined his manager and his fellow teammates. How has this affected his play? Badly. He is not the force he once was in the heart of the Blues’ defense, and there are persistent whispers that he is the source of some locker room discontent.

Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and European football.


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