Spyin' Kop: Liverpool v Chelsea - Sunday 21st April 2013

Posted by Sarah Deane on April 16, 2013, 07:52:22 PM



Barclays Premiership
Liverpool v Chelsea
Sunday 21st April 2013
KO: 4pm

Always a tasty one, Liverpool go into the Chelsea clash 8 points behind the Blues, with both still chasing a Champions League place (look, I'm an optimist...). This week, RAWK kidnapped a whopping five (didn't expect all the answers back in time!) proper Chelsea fans, and extracted their musings ahead of Sunday's game - so grab a coffee and take your time over this one.

Our hostages were:
David & Jonny Watson - lifelong Blues fans from Norn Iron, brothers of the much-missed Cherith Watson (Liverpoolfc.tv)
Dean Murphy - another season ticket holder
Chris Walton - ditto, match regular from Fulham
Rob Hallett - music impresario and season ticket hiolder

A massive thanks to all of them for giving up their time to answer these burning questions, and to Simon Glinn and Ashley Rose for help with contacts. Cheers boys. :)

First, let's feed the elephant in the room and be done with it. When Rafael Benitez was appointed manager, we all saw the banners, heard the boos around Stamford Bridge etc, but were they really representative of the majority of fans (in your opinion), and have attitudes changed at all in the five months since?

David: I don't think anything has really changed during his time at the Bridge. He could have won the FA Cup (well, he won't now) and the Europa League but it still won't mean a thing. His comments in the past about Chelsea are what the issue is, I'd imagine it would be exactly the same at Anfield if Mr. Ferguson was to be given the job.

Jonny: I don't feel it's so much down to a change in attitude rather than the knowledge that every week that passes brings us closer to his departure. No Chelsea fan in my opinion could have been pleased at his appointment given his very public dismissal of both the club and in particular the fans. It's the equivalent of appointing Gary Neville at Anfield!

Dean: Not really representing the whole majority of CFC fans..but some that never like to forget and "bury the hatchet" as such!! As for myself.. I thought he had a good enough CV to take charge and hasn't done that bad of a job in steadying the ship and, that we will qualify the CL.

Chris: Yes, the boos were representative of the majority, if not all the fans. We didnít want Rafa. I donít think attitudes have changed recently and we havenít warmed to him, and never will. We still donít want Rafa as manager and still think Di Matteo should have been given the chance to see the season through. We just thought the time would now be better spent trying to get behind the team rather than have a pop at a fella who is leaving soon anyway.

Rob:  Yes it was, and is, the majority. Forget the past, just look at his team selections, substitutions and treatment of senior players such as Frank and John.

How distracting has the management saga been to the players and fans, do you think?

David: There's no doubt about it, it's definitely been a distraction. The bad patch at the start of Rafa's reign can be partly contributed to the negative reaction of the fans in the stadium. It can't have been easy for players playing in an atmosphere which was mostly negative comments to the management.

Jonny: With the departure of key players and the challenge of integrating new players to the squad it was always going to be a season of transition. Managerial changes are nothing new at Chelsea and I'm sure the players have experienced it all before.

Dean: A major distraction. I cant see it as a help this season or any of the other seasons we haven't been doing well.

Chris: We canít blame the situation on our inability to challenge for the Premiership. Roman has been sacking managers for 10 years and we have done OK. Last year he got rid of Villas-Boas and we went and won the FA Cup and Champions League so it shouldnít be affecting the players. Fans do want stability though. We canít keep sacking managers, itís got ridiculous now and when you think of the managers heís got rid of, itís ridiculous really. What club do you know sacks a manager a few months after winning the Premiership and FA Cup Double? Or after winning the Champions League. Madness!

Rob:  Extremely.

Onto your Premiership season so far, have things gone better or worse than expected?

David: After last season's Champions League success and the addition of some quality signings in the summer, it's fair to say that the season hasn't panned out as hoped/predicted. For the second season running we're in a battle for the final Champions League spot, something that was a given since the early 2000s.

Jonny: With the signing of Hazard and Oscar it was clear we intended to play a more expansive game and more pleasing on the eye. The balance of youth and experience in the squad gave early optimism but we simply have lacked the consistency to make a challenge. Competing in so many competitions and the busy fixture schedule has left us unable to challenge for the top honours which isn't good enough for a club with our ambition.

Dean: About what we were expecting without a recognised manager.

Chris: Worse! After winning the Champions League last season, and our start to this season where we looked unplayable at times, I thought weíd canter to the title. Hazard, Mata and Oscar were linking up well, but then we hit a sticky spell in November and Roman pulled the trigger. All the talk over the future of Lampard hasnít helped either. Heís been in and out of the side, and how we can consider letting him go when he still produces the goods is beyond me. Itíd be like you lot telling Gerrard he can find a new club in the summer. He still has a lot to give.

Rob: Much worse, considering we were coming off the Champions League success.

Despite the disappointment of going out of the CL at the group stages, is winning the Europa Cup still important to the fans - a trophy's a trophy, after all?

David: I think winning any trophy for the first time is always an important victory and the chance to be the first British side to lift the three main European trophies isn't to be sniffed at either. We love adding to our history after all.

Jonny: I've been reasonably ambivalent to to the Europa league but to be honest now we've reached the semi final I'd like to see us win it obviously. First priority has to be top 4 but it would be a nice addition to the trophy cabinet.

Dean: You're right a trophy is a trophy!! it should be important to every CFC fan!!!

Chris: Itís a bit embarrassing really as we used to take the piss out of the Scousers and Spurs for being a ďThursday night, Channel 5Ē outfit! But the UEFA Cup is the only major trophy weíve never won, so if we won it, that would complete the set, which you lot will never do as you never won the Cup Winnersí Cup Ė not bad for a club that ainít got no history eh?

Rob:  It's all about the top four.

What are your thoughts on Roman Abramovich? Trigger happy despot or passionately devoted Superfan?

David: Roman has definitely grown to love Chelsea, but he could do with forgetting the pin number to his bank account for a while.

Jonny: Trigger happy despot for me. Don't get me wrong I am and will remain grateful to him for everything he has done and invested in the club but we need stability to generate long term success.

Dean: He's Russian... enough said!!

Chris: He is obviously a fella you donít cross and is used to getting his own way. I bet he used to walk off with the trains if a kid came over to share the train set at nursery! I think he does have the best interests of the club at heart, but he just needs to keep his nose out of the team affairs and allow Jose (when he comes back in the summer) to manage the side. Weíll be back.

Rob: We would not be here without him.

Who's been your star player this season?

David: No doubt about it, Juan Mata has been superb. He's made key contributions to most games this season and continues to develop. Hazard can only get even better next year too.

Jonny: Juan Mata has simply been different class all season. Creative and with an eye for a goal he rarely plays the wrong ball. We've seen enough of Hazard and Oscar to know the futures very bright whilst Petr Cech has been outstanding all season too.

Dean: Juan Mata.

Chris: Juan Mata. Without a doubt. Superb player, love watching him play and very selfless. He could have about 20 league goals this season, but always seems to tee up a team-mate to score instead.

Rob:  Mata.

Have you taken much notice of Liverpool this season?

David: Being from Northern Ireland, I always take an interest in our local players and managers so I've kept an eye out for how Brendan has got on. A bit hit and miss if anything, but that's been the way of it these past few years.

Jonny: Not really to be honest bar for the usual piss taking with mates who are big reds. I think you're a few seasons away from any real sustained challenge at the top but heading in the right direction.

Dean: You always take note of a club like Liverpool!! punching way below their weight at the moment... work in progress etc..sleeping giant!!

Chris: Not a great deal to be honest as they havenít pulled up many trees have they? They were out of the cups fairly early and other than Spurs donít think they have got many wins against the teams we are challenging against for Champions League football. I speak with Ash a bit [ashleyrose-66] and he tells me that they are ridiculously inconsistent and will beat Spurs one week and get beat at Southampton the next. Drives him mad! Sounds a bit like how we have been this year to be honest.

Rob:  They've got good young players building a foundation for tomorrow.

Brendan Rodgers spent four years at Chelsea working with Mourinho in the youth and reserve teams - is he still remembered at Stamford Bridge and what's your opinion of him as a top-flight manager?

David: Brendan's really risen through the ranks since leaving Chelsea, and other than a dodgy spell in charge of Reading, has produced results wherever he's been. The key thing that stands out for me is the way he gets his teams to play football. Given time he could do great things, but the way modern football is, results need produced yesterday, not in two years time.

Jonny: Being Northern Irish like Rodgers and with his prior connections I have always kept a close eye on his progress. I was impressed with the achievements at Swansea and the brand of football his teams played. Too early in his career to judge him as a top flight boss but he seems to know what he's doing.

Dean: see 7!

Chris: Not sure many at the Bridge remember Rodgers as he, like most backroom staff, were kept in the background. Especially when there was so much attention on Jose! I think he is trying to do the right thing and trying to get Liverpool playing the right way and it takes time to do that. He has bought some good players and some crap players in my opinion. I canít see why he spent so much on Allen and Borini but Danny Sturridge will be a great signing. Was really gutted to let him go. And despite not seeing much of Coutinho since he joined you lot, Ash tells me he is an absolute gem! Hopefully heíll be quiet this weekend!

Rob:  He's got a long way to go, but he's one of the brightest young managers out there.

Luis Suarez - easy target or pantomime villain? Doth the media protest too much?

David: Suarez is a bit of an easy target, but then, give the Press and opposing fans enough rope and they're bound to hang you.

Jonny: Wonderful footballer of that there is little doubt but comes across as a complete wanker in every other regard. There are too many top class footballers who feel their talent excuses all other actions (we have a few at The Bridge too).

Dean: Media have portrayed both as a villain and hero for you guys!! I think he's up there with the Prem's greatest imports!

Chris: Both! The press love having a go at him, and sometimes itís a bit unfair (like the handball in the cup game) but he donít help himself sometimes with some of his other antics, the off the ball stuff usually. Personally, I love him. If he was at Chelsea, weíd all absolutely love him, because he gets under the skin of opposition players and fans. He is one of those players that you hate at other clubs but youíd love him if he played for you! I hope he has one of his Ďmomentsí on Sunday and gets sent off though!

Rob:  Of course, and he loves it, his value goes up with every headline.

Aside from Suarez (we're assuming...), which Liverpool players will you be most wary of on Sunday?

David: Daniel Sturridge is a cert to do something on Sunday. He has amazing ability but he's one of those players who frustrated the life out of me due to his willingness to take on the opposition by himself. As a former Blue though, he's a cert to get stuck in and try and show the club they made a mistake in letting him go.

Jonny: I have been impressed with Coutinho with what little I have seen of him so far. Apart from him, I'm looking forward to seeing Sturridge ignore the team best interests for his own gain . Glen Johnson another old blue always seems to do well against us too.

Dean: Stevie G for obvious reasons.. Raheem Sterling if fit/ and him you bought from us (Sturridge)!!

Chris: If Coutinho is as good as Ash says, then I guess we will have to watch him. Danny will be itching to score against us as well, and you can never rule out Gerrard popping up with something, so youíve got a few that we need to keep an eye on. Weíve got a few of our own though so itíll be an interesting match.

Rob:  Gerrard is always a threat.

How do you see Chelsea lining up, and what do you think Rafa's tactics will be, considering he knows Liverpool so well?

David: With the race for 3/4/5th spot hotting up, a draw isn't a terrible result, but we really need to be going to Anfield to take 3 points away. Couldn't even begin to guess how Rafa will line the team up on Sunday though.

Jonny: With the Fat Spanish Waiter at the helm i not even going to have a stab at his rotation policy. We will play 4-2-3-1 but your guess is as good as mine. I would love him to be more attacking, Torres and Ba paired up front from the start would shake things up. Sadly i fear it will be another game were we let the opposition dominate possession and we attempt to play on the break.

Dean: I see Rafa fielding our U-16s as Liverpool need the points!!! Seriously... do not have a clue with his selections??? 

Chris: I think itíll be the same as we usually get under Rafa. A lot has changed at Liverpool since he left, and they play a different way now. But heíll know about Gerrard, Carragher and co and will hopefully tell us how we can put Reina under pressure. But we also have to play on Wednesday night against Fulham and again on the following Thursday in the UEFA, so Rafa will have to use the squad well. I think Fernando will start at Anfield. Wouldnít surprise me to see him score either.

Rob:  You probably know better than me, but we all know he'll probably use a lone striker and a packed midfield.

Fernando Torres - what's going on there, then?

David: He's currently enjoying his third best season for goals scored while playing for a British club. I'd say he's fairly happy all things considered...!

Jonny: Having scored his 20th goal of the season on Sunday things appear to be slowly improving but its probably been too little too late. I don't feel we have used him to the best of his abilities and playing as the lone striker sees him pulling wide and sacrificing his own gain for the benefit of the team. I would like to see the team create more chances for him and playing quicker through midfield would help. His goal at Rubin in the Europa League QF from a first time Frank Lampard ball demonstrated this point.

Dean: Nando has 22 goals in all comps this season.. which is better than his previous.. in my mind he's still one of the greatest forwards in the business and i will continue to say this until he hangs up his boots!!

Chris: Heís done alright in the cups this season, itís a shame he canít hit a cow's arse with a banjo in the Premiership. It hasnít really worked out for him has it? I remember when he was with you and I used to dread playing against you because I feared him so much Ė him, Garcia (never a goal) and Riise!! He scored ridiculous goals and had a burst of speed that would leave defenders for dead. Heís lost that now it seems, and with Drogba leaving in the summer, we have struggled in attack. Though I do like the look of Demba Ba, heís fitted in well.

Rob:  God knows.

Last but not least, want to predict the score?

David: It's got a 1-1 draw all over it.

Jonny: I hope we will be strong and, having more to play for, see a 2-1 Chelsea victory with Torres grabbing the winner.

Dean: 3-1 either way! Good luck lads!!

Chris: Heart says 1-2 with Benayoun and Torres scoring for us, but head says 1-1 with a scrappy goal by Ivanovic.

Rob:  1-2 with Liverpool to score first.

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