Afternoon all. How big is this then? Yesterday's results mean Chelsea can see a sliver of hope in the title race once more. Victory for Liverpool and would the words "Champions League place" begin to imprint themselves on optimistic Liverpudlian minds? Chelsea have won three on the bounce, Liverpool likewise. These are two teams hitting their stride.
There's also the trifling side issue of Fernando Torres's Chelsea debut. What is there left to say about El Niño's £50m move to Stamford Bridge? We've had 30-odd pieces over the past week alone, which, it's probably safe to say, have covered most of the main issues. The time for talking is over – it's now time to let Torres do his talking on the pitch. Oh, hang on. Does that still count as talking? Hmm. Perhaps we should say the time for literal talking is over, but the time for metaphorical talking is about to begin. Literally. Or possibly metaphorically.
Personally I felt there was a lot to admire about Torres's comments post-move. It was brutally honest:
"The new owner, John Henry, has the right ambition to get things back to what they were, but they need time. Maybe they will need the time while I'm at my best age to play football. I explained my situation to them, my feelings, and was honest and face to face. But wWhen you have an opportunity to play for a team who have a chance of winning the Champions League and the Premier League, and you are the right age to do that and compete with the best, you can't say 'no'. To call me a 'traitor' makes no sense. I played three very good seasons there, and left them with massive money, scored lots of goals and put in good performances. I helped the sale process as well. But I have to think about my career, and this is a step forward."
Fair enough, that.
The teams are in:
The Team With Torres: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Mikel; Essien, Lampard; Torres, Drogba, Anelka. Subs: Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira, David Luiz, McEachran, Sala, Malouda, Kalou.
The Team Without Torres: Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Kelly; Johnson, Gerrard, Lucas, Maxi; Meireles; Kuyt. Subs: Gulacsi, Aurelio, Suarez, Jovanovic, Kyrgiakos, Ngog, Poulsen.
So Suárez isn't considered ready to start despite impressing in midweek. Torres, as expected, starts for the Team With Torres. Very, very interesting to see how those two line-ups dovetail.
So does that mean a return to the Ancelotti diamond? With Anelka at the attacking tip? Ah, the Ancelotti diamond. Sounds like the sort of the thing young Indiana Jones might have been searching for in 1920s Tuscany.
Pre-match email dept. "Strictly speaking those thirty articles were not talking either, unless they had a built-in read aloud widget (there's probably an app for that)," writes Robin Hazlehurst. "So it is more that the time for word-based metaphorical talking is over and for non-word-based metaphorical talking to start. Or literally talking and literally talking if you mean it in the literally football-pundit-based sense of the word. Does that help?" Yes. And no.
"Does this Liverpool formation do anything but confirm the lack of thought that went in to signing Andy Carroll?" writes Luke Stevenson. "As they have absolutely no width to speak of, bar (ahem) Glen Johnson."
Jamie Redknapp has just agreed with himself on Sky. "Torres's effort has been 'diabolical' at times, according to you," says David Jones. "Well, yes, I agree …" begins Redknapp.
And talking of tactics is the Ancelotti Diamond going to be met with the Dalglish Pear? The Liverpool manager played a kind of 3-4-2-1 in midweek. (Can't really see Indy charging round Italy looking for the Dalglish Pear. Possibly eating one, I suppose.)
Click-clack, click-clack … John Terry and Steven Gerrard lead out their sides at Stamford Bridge. Torres, having warmly greeted some of his old team-mates in the tunnel, is among the last out.
ADVERTS, ADVERTS, ADVERTS … Buy a car, go and see some terrible film with Pegg and that other bloke, buy some expensive electronic equipment that you don't really need, buy a Ben Affleck DVD from Asda, change your home insurance, buy another car, do some banking …
Peep! The visitors, kicking from left to right, get things underway.
1 min: Quick feet from Gerrard draws a challenge 30 seconds in, and Mikel heads into the referee's book. Andre Marriner carefully carves a rod and places it firmly on his own back. Nothing comes from the set piece.
2 min: Horrible pass from Maxi hands the ball to Torres 50 yards from goal. He moves forward threateningly, but can only skew his shot well over the bar. What a start that would've been.
3 min: Gerrard tries to get Johnson clear down the left, but Ivanovic shuts the door. And the Liverpool wing back then lumps a cross miles over the top of the players in the box.
4 min: "Hey! That picture of Carragher looks like one of those pig guards at Jabba's palace in Star Wars," notes James Galloway. "Hmmm. Who does that make Jabba? And is fresh-faced Fernando Luke Skywalker? I for one would not like to see John Terry in a princess Leia-style bikini." There's a lot going on there, but I'm sure we can all agreee with the last point.
6 min: A few whistles and jeers from the away end as Torres gets on the ball, but it's hardly a deafening wall of noise. Diouf's reception at Ibrox from Celtic fans much more vitriolic.
8 min: " Didn't Luxembergo at Real Madrid pioneer a 4-2-2-2 formation that was nicknamed The Magic Rectangle?" notes Ryan Dunne. "Now that would be an Indy-worthy artefact." Or possibly Harry Potter-worthy. Poor header from Mikel, but Kelly clumps his high ball over Kuyt's head and through to Cech.
9 min: Scrappy, shapeless stuff so far. Neither side are even close to settling.
10 min: Here's @honigstein on Twitter: "Very interested to see Liverpool play with three at the back. last team I saw doing that were Bayern under Klinsmann. quickly abandoned. Lahm said "three at the back always ends up at five at the back" at the time." Anelka, in the trequartista role, rumbles forward but the attack quickly peters out.
12 min: Johnson tries to surge inside from the left-flank, but Chelsea have plenty of bodies back. And at the other end Torres is caught offside.
13 min: Reina hoofs a clearance out of play for a Chelsea throw on the edge of their own area. Liverpool looking to be pretty direct so far.
15 min: Drogba finds a soupçon of space 30 yards out. Lampard breaks beyond him but the Ivorian can only larrups his shot into his team-mate.
16 min: Sheesh! Another close shave of Liverpool's own making. Skrtel dillies and dallies, dallies and dillies on the edge of his own area and almost gets his pocket pinched by the onrushing Anelka.
18 min: Shocking pass from Cole goes straight to Carragher and he puts Kuyt away down the right. Cross cleared for a corner …
19 min: … cleared as far as Kelly and overhit through to Cech by Glen Johnson. Still, it's fairly even, which, when you think of the state Liverpool were in not all that long ago, is sign of progress for the Reds.
20 min: Torres is crowded out by four defenders as he attempts to spin himself some space in the area. Twenty minutes gone, and we've only had the one shot at goal thus far.
21 min: Cole is picked out beautifully by Lampard and Skrtel does well to prod the left-back's cross away. The defender looks like he may have strained a thigh muscle in doing so, however.
22 min: "Re: Luxembergo's The Magic Rectangle," begins Philip Podolsky. "On the one occasion that formation came against a proper opposition, it saw Real's back four isolated and exposed against the formidable attacking tridente of Ronaldinho, Eto'o and Messi, ending with R10 giving the performance of his life and Luxo getting the sack a couple of games later. Just saying."
23 min: Skrtel returns to the fray and seems to be moving freely enough. Kyrgiakos stops jogging up and down the touchline and retakes his seat on the bench.
24 min: Cech looks long for Drogba, Carragher tidies up nicely. Reina follows suit looking for Kuyt, but it's straight through to his opposite number.
25 min: Torres's jugular has an unexpected meeting with Daniel Agger's forearm. Dangerous free-kick this …
26 min: … glanced away by Lucas for a Chelsea corner …
27 min: … and flicked wide by Ivanovic. Decent effort that.
28 min: "Since formations seem to be so important," writes Roderick Stewart, "why don't FIFA take a leaf out of the cricket book and introduce a Powerplay, where both teams have to play 2-3-5 for the last 15 minutes of each half? They could use technology to police it." Essien slips and Liverpool break. Gerrard gets to the byline and wins a corner …
29 min: … scrambled by Chelsea. And then again. And then a Chelsea break fizzles out. It's not going out on a limb to say this has been pretty dire so far.
31 min: Torres raises pulses by grabbing a yard of space inside the box. Carragher makes a fine block on his erstwhile colleague. Again it was the result of a Liverpool error, Lucas losing out to Drogba in midfield.
32 min: IS THIS THE MISS OF THE SEASON? THE DECADE? THE CENTURY? No, but it's a bad 'un. Gerrard drills the ball across goal and Maxi is clear, two yards out, Cech nowhere, the goal gaping. He sidefoots … against the bar. What a let-off that was, and what a miss.
34 min: Bosingwa scurries down the right to win a corner. This has really picked up in the last few minutes …
35 min: … again Ivanovic gets his head to it, again it's wide. Agger doing enough to deny the Serbian a clear header. "When Roderick Stewart was talking about using technology to police the powerplay, I hope he was thinking of cattle prods," writes James Galloway.
36 min: Both keepers are punting more often than a river-loving Oxbridge student. And, like the loan of said student, it's not paid off yet.
38 min: The anonymous Anelka allows another pass to go astray. Seconds later Essien has his pocket picked by Gerrard. Those two have been very poor for Chelsea thus far.
40 min: Having done well to mug Maxi for the ball, Anelka and Essien again contrive to ruin a perfectly good attacking opportunity.
41 min: Gerrard, Agger, Johnson, Maxi, Gerrard, Johnson … and headed clear by Terry. To be honest, Liverpool have probably put together the more cohesive attacks thus far.
43 min: "That Rodriguez effort has got to be one of the worst misses in football since Danielle Lloyd," writes @BillChilton on Twitter. Ba-dum tish! Chelsea waste another decent set-piece opportunity, Drogba offering Lampard a nightmare of a pass.
44 min: I can't really concentrate on the footy as I fear I may have left my water bottle of three years in the toilet. Half-time can't come soon enough.
45 min: Cech and Ivanovic scream at each other furiously after some mis-communication almost sees the ball squirt away from the keeper.
Peep! Marriner brings a close to a largely underwhelming half of football.
It's gone! The water bottle is gone! To the perpetrator of this heinous crime, listen and understand. I can't be bargained with. I can't be reasoned with. I don't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And I absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
Oh, hang on. It's on the side over there.
Half-time email dept.
"John, I'm concerned - you do know that plastic degrades?" begins Amir Adhamy. "Three years is an awful long time to be using the same water bottle. I wouldn't want you consume micro-globules or decaying polymer or particles of sub-atomic plastics, such a thing would surely undo the benefits of your drinking 1.5 litre minimum of water daily. I just want the best for you." Don't worry it's some sort of metal.
"Had no idea that Luxembergo had invented one of the key precepts of scientology," notes Matt Loren. "As I understand it, the sci-fi swallowing nutters understand the 'Magic Triangle'* to be the balance between 'Understanding', 'Communication' and their application to 'Reality'. Frankly, that sounds a good way to run a football team."
*PLEASE NOTE: Not all magic shapes were invented by Vanderlei Luxemburgo
The half-time match stats make ugly reading, but they sum things up fairly well.
Peep!!! Chelsea start half No2. "At least you found your bottle at half-time, be interesting to see if most of the Chelsea side can match your efforts ..." writes Iain Paterson.
46 min: No changes at the break. Don't expect Suarez particularly soon if it stays like this. Malouda and Kalou likely to be the earlier changes.
47 min: Ivanovic's hopeful hoist forward almost drops nicely for Drogba but he's well marshalled by Carragher, who has rolled back the years so far this afternoon.
48 min: "From your description it is less a bottle and more a flask," writes Ben Dunn. Yes, that's the word I was looking for. "Presumably accompanied by a thick plastic lunch-box with a Thundercats lid." Sadly no. But if any Thundercat lunchbox makers out there fancy sending me one, I'd happily shill like there's no tomorrow. Ivanovic fouls Kuyt close to halfway.
50 min: Nice use of the ball from Meireles, but the attack soon peters out once more. Things have carried on where the first half left off I'm afraid.
52 min: Drogba and Anelka tag team against Agger and Reina, the defender's clearance eventually charged down for a goal kick. At the other end, Kuyt feeds Johnson, who lumps his shot well wide.
53 min: Cole tumbles in the box (no protests from any of the players) but Drogba plays on and sees his shot deflected wide. Anelka nods the corner wide from close range.
54 min: Another corner, and for the third time Ivanovic gets his head to it. Again though, he's under pressure and off target.
56 min: " In response to Philip Podolsky," begins Ryan Dunne. "Surely Ronaldinho, Eto'o and Messi playing at their best could defeat many a team, meaning that the loss you mention need not indicate a central flaw with The Magic Rectangle? And Real Madrid sack coaches who win La Liga and the Champions League (or both), so Luxembergo getting the boot hardly need indicate a tactical fool. Perhaps Barcelona's then front three (or, if you will, Magic Triangle) was uniquely placed to defeat the otherwise-sound Magic Rectangle, paper/scissors/stone style. Plus I'm sure that The Magic Rectangle was a big influence on Spalleti's 4-6-0 'stikerless' formation which, as any tactics bore can tell you, gave us the exciting fluid European Cup-winning recent Man U side. Wonder if, tactics wise, you get Magic Squares." I'm thinking: yes.
57 min: Torres gets a rare touch on the edge of the area, but the ball bobbles up around his waist. Cole eventually skews a shot well wide of Reina's goal.
58 min: Johnson is tripped wide on the right. Threatening position this …
59 min: … slung straight into the arms of Cech by Meireles. A bigger waste than Meat Loaf's youth.
61 min: Another decent Liverpool move down the right – Kuyt slings a cross in, Johnson can't quite sort himself out on the edge of the area.
63 min: Lampard and Gerrard crunch into a tackle in midfield, the Chelsea man winning the throw. Ancelotti's side need to find their mojo, though. Really not looking like scoring at the moment.
64 min: Lucas switches off and Anelka finds some space 40 yards from goal. The shot is spanked wide, but, well, it was something. And Torres's afternoon of inaction is over. On comes Kalou.
66 min: Ominous signs for Liverpool. Essien cuts inside onto his left foot and sends a drive fizzing a yard over the bar. Chelsea just cranking through the gears now.
GOAL!!! Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool (Meireles 69) Crikey! A horror moment for Cech. Gerrard gets down the right and clips a cross in low, Cech and Ivanovic hesitate and the ball finds Meireles at the back post who does very well to control his volley and bury the chance. Half the office seems to jump up.
70 min: Well, well, well. The bloodthirsty feline gets in amongst the the filthy columbidae. On comes Malouda for the anonymous Mikel.
71 min: "Torres, what's the score?" chant the Liverpool fans. He's almost able to reply "1-1, actually" because Malouda is close to beating Reina at his near post.
72 min: David Luiz and his lovely, lovely hair replace Bosingwa. Strange substitution, but I really like him as a player. Pacy, very comfortable and very good positionally.
74 min: And here comes Aurelio, replacing Maxi Rodriguez. I don't think many Chelsea fans can complain about being behind (not that any have, to my inbox at least). Liverpool have in no way battered or dominated them, but they've probably edged it.
76 min: Drogba clips in a free-kick and the last defender prevents David Luiz from getting on the end of it. Might be a long final 15 minutes for the visitors.
77 min: "Torres had 29 touches during his 66 minutes on the pitch, fewer than any other outfield player in that time," notes @optajoe on Twitter. Horrible pass from Kalou gets Lucas away on the break, but his touch is heavy and Terry tidies up.
79 min: If it stays this way, Liverpool will be just six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. They couldn't, could they? Ivanovic's cross finds Kalou but Liverpool smother the danger.
80 min: Liverpool break away and Aurelio stings Cech's palms with an effort for from close range. Corner …
81 min: … slung in too deep by Aurelio and despite Kuyt bounding after the ball like a willing, if slightly odd-looking, labrador, he can't keep it in.
83 min: David Luiz lofts forward. Chelsea's attackers watch the pass sail over their heads. On comes Poulson, off goes the increasingly impressive Meireles.
84 min: No sign of Suarez, but Liverpool don't need him at the moment. Lampard smacks a shot that screamed of desperation into the terraces.
86 min: Kalou gets above the Liverpool defence, but like a Churchill dog in the back of car with poor suspension, he nods aimlessly.
87 min: Stamford Bridge has gone very, very quiet. Title dreams draining away?
88 min: Cech comes racing out of the goal to deal with Lucas's long ball. A few Chelsea hearts leap into mouths, out of mouths and off down the King's Road as he dinks a pass across the pitch.
90 min: A minimum of four minutes added time to be played.
90+1 min: Lucas, who has had an excellent game actually, cleverly finds Aurelio on the left, but his cross is wayward. At the other end Ivanovic goes down after a bump from Johnson. Daft thing for Johnson to do, but he's got away with it. Would've been harsh in any case.
90+3 min: More screams for handball as Kalou tries to clip in a cross. Instead Liverpool get a free-kick as Ivanovic nudges an opponent.
90+4 min: Tick, tock, tick, tock …
PEEP! PEEP!! PEEEEEEP!!! All over. What a stonking result for Liverpool!
Well, well, well. Not a cracker, by any means. In fact, it was largely dire. Not that Liverpool's supporters will mind. It was a deserved win for Kenny Dalglish's side and they're now six points from the Champions League places. Thanks for all your emails. Stick around on site for all the fall-out from Stamford Bridge.