Liverpool v Chelsea is a hell of a fixture to predict. In the last five years alone, we've witnessed two comfortable 2-0 wins for the home side, one 1-1 draw, and three victories for Chelsea, including one 4-1 shellacking and last season's 2-0 win, a result which effectively won the title for Carlo Ancelotti in his first season in England.
That's not to mention assorted Champions League dribs and drabs at Anfield between the two: the Luis Garcia ghost goal, Eidur Gudjohnsen's time-stopping miss, Dirk Kuyt's penalty, Rafa Benitez sitting on the turf like Buddha, Branislav Ivanovic's heroics, Chelsea's misery, Liverpool's elation, Chelsea's jubilation and Liverpool's manic depression. And, er, one mind-numbing goalless draw in the group stages, but you can't have everything.
Still, this should be a free-flowing cracker, as anyone who has followed Liverpool since Roy Hodgson took over will be able to... actually, I'll stop there. But Roy's side, dismal for so long this season, have just won three games on the bounce, and after Steven Gerrard rolled back the years in the second half against Napoli the other night, they may feel they're coming into some half-decent form.
What decent form looks like: W W W W W L W D W W. F 27 A 3. Need we tell you whose this is.
Kick off: 4pm.
Dirk Kuyt returns for Liverpool, but Sotirios Kyrgiakos has tonsilitis and Glen Johnson is a complete liability unable to meet his former club thanks to a mild adductor strain: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Konchesky, Meireles, Lucas, Kuyt, Gerrard, Maxi, Torres.Subs: Hansen, Jovanovic, Wilson, Ngog, Spearing, Poulsen, Shelvey.
No Michael Essien for Chelsea, he's got a dodgy toe. Meanwhile Didier Drogba, who according to Ancelotti "had the fever last night and isn't 100 percent", rests on the bench, hopefully with a rug over his legs: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Alex, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Zhirkov, Kalou, Anelka, Malouda.Subs: Turnbull, Drogba, Bosingwa, Ferreira, Sturridge, Kakuta, McEachran.
Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)
Drogba's fever: Presumably - and jaded MBM regulars will know exactly what is coming, as sure as night follows day - it is not this sort of fever. Though if any man in the Premier League could lay himself up with a thundering dose of the Jock Wallaces, it's Didier.
Click, clack, whistle, clap: Out come the teams, trailing behind a giant poppy. They line up to shake hands. On Sky, commentator Martin Tyler goes to a break, promising us live action after the commercial messages. He's got a disturbing new habit, one which I only spotted the other week before the Blackpool - Manchester City game, of putting added emphasis on "IT'S LIVE!!!" as he cues up the ads. It's a real rasping rumble now, shouted at a good 39dB above his usual volume of speech. I don't know what's up with him. Perhaps someone's pulling a christmas tree, tip first, from his nether regions. That's all I can imagine it to be.
And we're off! Chelsea get the ball rolling, kicking towards the Kop in the first half. That'll mean Liverpool head that way in the second, just as they like it. Unless they're four or five goals down, that is. Over a minute elapses without Liverpool touching the ball.
3 min: Liverpool can't get hold of the ball at all. Ramires sprays a long ball down the centre for Kalou, but the striker can't keep it in. Reina will get to touch it!
4 min: Reina boots the ball upfield. Chelsea immediately win it back and pass it around a bit. This is painful to watch for the home side at the moment. Chelsea appear to be making some sort of statement. "If anyone who isn't from west central Scotland tried the link, I will be very surprised if they are any the wiser as to the fever that Rangers had on for the final," writes Craig McEwan. "Subtitles needed!"
5 min: Finally Liverpool put a couple of passes together, Gerrard feeding Maxi, who in turn finds Meireles in the middle of Chelsea's half. With Kuyt showing for the ball wide right, Meireles is bundled over by Mikel. Gerrard wastes the free kick, lumping it into the area, where it's easily cleared by Alex.
7 min: Liverpool are sitting very deep, as they've done all season. Torres, foraging alone miles away up front, may as well be stationed in a different country, which he possibly will be soon enough if he has to put up with these defeatist tactics much longer.
9 min: Gerrard, much in the style of his second-half wonder show against Napoli during the week, tries to drive his team forward through the centre. He gets the ball 25 yards out, drops a shoulder to skate past Mikel, but can't beat Ramires and Terry, who swarm around him. Can two people swarm? Probably not. You know what I mean. "With reference to your choice of picture," begins Robin Hazlehurst, "I'd imagine this match must be torture for Man Utd fans - is it possible for both teams to lose at once?"
11 min: GOAL!!! Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea. What a beautiful goal. From his own half, Skrtel rakes a lovely pass straight up the inside-left channel to Kuyt, who immediately turns and plays a crossfield pass to Torres. The striker controls, edges past Alex down the inside-right channel and into the box, and strokes a sure shot past Cech and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. Wonderful football - and it came from nothing, after a very slow start indeed by the home side!
14 min: Torres, his tail up, lashes a low shot wide left from 25 yards. Down the other end, Cole bombs down the left and stands one up into the centre, where Kalou heads straight at Reina from eight yards. Anfield is bubbling now.
15 min: Cole is enjoying a lot of space down the left. Kelly will have to watch what he's up to. Torres, back to help, hoofs an agricultural clearance straight down the middle. Cech, alone in his half, out of his area, tries to volley the ball straight back - and fresh-air swipes! He's forced to scamper back to get the ball as it rolls into his box. If that had happened a couple of yards further out, he could have been in trouble, with Kuyt lurking.
18 min: A couple of direct, powerful runs by Malouda down the inside-left channel. The second one sees him lay off wide left to Cole. Kelly gets a strong tackle in. Chelsea are looking to target the inexperienced full-back, nothing could be clearer. But that was staunch work.
19 min: Chelsea have seen 60 percent of the ball so far. "Not only can a pair of footballers 'swarm', but the same number can 'surround' a referee," notes Ian Copestake.
20 min: Absolutely fantastic work by Lucas, who bursts from deep inside his own half and sashays at top speed into the Chelsea half. He's got Kuyt to one side, Torres the other, and Gerrard coming up on the rails. Chelsea only have three back themselves, so Zhirkov bumps into the back of the Brazilian - and is rightly booked for his trouble. Lucas gets a lot of stick from some Liverpool fans, but he's been on top form for a season and a bit now; just his luck that the rest of the team has been on the way down as he's been on the way up.
22 min: Maxi attempts to volley a ball dropping by the left-hand edge of the Chelsea area into the top-right corner of Cech's goal. The shot flies over the bar, but given the difficulty of the shot, not by that much. A spectacular effort.
24 min: Meireles dinks a ball into the centre from the right for Torres, standing on the penalty spot. Alex bumps into him, then off him, and wins the free kick. It's a generous decision, especially as Torres was about to turn and lash a free shot goalwards from 12 yards. The striker seemed to simply win a battle of strength there. "Yakubu can surround a referee all on his own," adds Sean Moore.
28 min: After a depressingly defensive approach in the first ten minutes by Liverpool, they are pushing forward with more confidence now. Under pressure from Meireles, Zhirkov kicks the ball up onto his own hand in the Chelsea area. Liverpool claim for a penalty, but those are rarely given. As everyone stands shouting, Maxi hammers a low shot goalwards, but Cech is down to smother effortlessly. "Surely it's neither a Hobson's Choice (take it or leave it) nor a Morton's Fork (rock and a hard place), but rather a False Dilemma, implying only two options when there really are other potential outcomes," writes Joe Pearson. "Who says a liberal arts education is worthless?" Not me, sir. But it doesn't seem to have helped your league table recall; only Chelsea or Manchester United could win the league at that point.
32 min: Kelly cuts in from the right and hammers a low shot goalwards, to the bottom right. Terry gets a boot in to divert, but only up into the air. He's in all sorts of trouble in the corner of the pitch, but Kuyt gives him a get-out-of-jail-free card by witlessly barging into his back. "I picked up on Martin Tyler's new highly vocal 'It's Live' declaration too," writes Adam Nosurname, which is fine work as he's heard it while all the way over in New York. "Since Thierry Henry left the Premiership, he no longer has his 'Henrrrryyyy!!' catchphrase, which he screamed in ecstasy whenever Henry had the slightest chance on goal. So I think he's trying out a new catchphrase in a Michael Buffer style."
35 min: Carragher screams at Lucas, Meireles and Maxi to get upfield. Liverpool are still in the habit of dropping back very deep. Still, it's been working so far, with Chelsea having created next to nothing, a couple of runs by Cole and Malouda down the left apart. Alex gets his head on a deep free kick in the Liverpool box, but can't guide the ball goalwards.
39 min: Malouda hits a shot from 30 yards off the back of Carragher. Corner on the left. Zhirkov can't beat the first man, Gerrard, who volleys clear miles upfield. Chelsea have the lion's share of the ball here, but aren't doing a great deal with it.
42 min: This has suddenly got all 1980s, both teams heading and hoofing aimlessly. It's being played at very many miles per hour. Anyway, this sign from last season. "In dramaturgical terms, it's a Cornellian Dilemma," explains Matthew Elliott, "in which both possible outcomes are equally undesirable. It can only be a False Dilemma next season, since it requires Arsenal standing a chance of winning the title."
44 min: OH WHAT A GOAL THIS IS. Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea. Fernando Torres has found his mojo again alright. Cole slips near the centre circle. Meireles races forward and slides a pass towards Torres, on the left-hand side of the Chelsea box. He drops a shoulder, moves inside past Ivanovic, and curls an unstoppable shot into the top-right corner of the goal. Cech had no chance whatsoever. Anfield erupts, and no wonder. That was simply stunning.
HALF TIME: Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea. With Konchesky and Skrtel all over the shop on the edge of Liverpool's area, Anelka breaks through and slices a simple chance wide right of goal from ten yards. It wouldn't have counted anyway, for some reason or other. The whistle goes for half time, though you can hardly hear it, the Kop trotting out their "Fernando Torres, Liverpool's number nine" ditty. What a half of football that was for the home side.
Just to calm everyone down.
We're off again - AND WE'RE LIIIIIIIVE! A predictable change for Chelsea: the woeful Kalou goes off, Drogba comes on. "Don't let's be harsh on Martin Tyler," writes Gary Naylor. "I suspect he is acting under a Murdochian edict, as he was calm authority itself when working for ESPN during the World Cup (remember that?)"
45 min 30 sec: Sammy Lee is pictured looking at his watch. It's going to be a long half for him.
47 min: The mere presence of Drogba causes immediate panic in the Liverpool back line, Carragher climbing all over him but somehow winning the free kick. Perhaps because he nearly falls on his head. Up one end, Maxi sends a stinger into the hands of Cech, Ramires shanks a dreadful long-range effort wide left.
50 min: Twice Meireles and Kuyt combine well down the inside-right channel, twice Chelsea snuff the danger out before the ball gets anywhere near their box.
52 min: Meireles - who has been excellent so far - tries to spring Torres free down the centre with a lovely curling ball rolled through from the inside-right channel. Ramires is wise to Liverpool's game, and outpaces Torres as he tracks back. Brilliant play all round, especially by Ramires, because Torres would have been haring off in search for his hat-trick otherwise.
55 min: Gerrard nips at the heels of Zhirkov, 30 yards out on the left. Free kick. Malouda swings it in, but the ball doesn't even beat first man. Chelsea haven't carved out much up front at all. "Re the half-time entertainment," writes Gary Naylor, "I recently saw an excellent BBC Four documentary on Herb Alpert, who bore a striking resemblance to Jose Mourinho. Both, of course, are fine exponents of blowing their own trumpets. Try the enchiladas."
57 min: It's all Chelsea, this. Liverpool can't get out of their half. Sitting too deep again. Malouda is seeing a lot of the ball. Torres practically none of it. "Your use of the words 'snuff' and 'box' in the same sentence reminded me that you can never get enough of these boys," writes the very wise Ian Copestake, providing an essential cultural service for you.
58 min: Skrtel knocks Drogba over, 25 yards out, just to the right of the D. Everyone in red is worried about the modern-day Johnny Metgod, Alex - but Drogba takes a terrible quick one, attempting to pass the ball into the bottom-right corner, and the chance is wasted.
60 min: Cole curls in a cross from the left. Ramires heads over from eight yards. That was a golden chance. This looks like a matter of time for Chelsea.
62 min: Zhirkov tears into the box from the left, and unleashes a high shot to the near post. Reina pushes the effort around the post. From the corner, Meireles clears upfield - where there is nobody in a red shirt. Liverpool are asking for trouble here.
64 min: Chelsea have had 69 percent of the ball, while nearly 30 percent of the game has been in Liverpool's final third.
66 min: What a save by Reina! Drogba whips in a ball from the right. Malouda meets it on the half volley at the edge of the six-yard box. Reina somehow gets in the way to chest the ball clear. That looked for all the world like Chelsea's opening goal.
69 min: We're over halfway through the half, and Liverpool have hardly touched the ball during this period. I'm not sure whether this is staunch or shameful. "Another explanation could be that Martin Tyler is aware of some faulty wiring in the commentary booth and he's just trying to pass a message on to the electricians," muses Adam Nosurname from New York. "This would also allow him to follow on with another catchphrase: 'The atmosphere here is electric!' Sorry." You're in the Big Apple, and you're wasting all this time indoors on the MBM? You spoilt, spoilt man!
71 min: Bosingwa comes on for Ivanovic. Chelsea may as well have taken Cech off, he's got nothing to do.
72 min: And sure enough, Cech gets to warm his hands on a low shot from Maxi, who had cut in from the left to execute a wee half-volley.
74 min: Torres, nearly on the left touchline, tries for the bottom-right corner. What daft ambition. Alex sticks out a leg and deflects the ball wide right. From the corner on the right. Meireles scuffs a shot from the edge of the box, but the ball lands to Kuyt, just to the left of goal, eight yards out. He turns and hammers a low shot towards the bottom-left corner, but Cech deflects round the post. Save of the match, which given Reina's heroics earlier on, is saying something. The corner, well, I'll not bother describing that.
76 min: Sturridge comes on in Zhirkov's stead.
78 min: Liverpool break down the pitch, three on three, but Torres runs out of steam and delivers a weak pass into the centre, with Gerrard and Meireles lining up in the hope of shooting. "Liverpool might hold on to the three points," writes Jonathan Francis, "but it feels more like a mid-table team fortuitously going ahead and then spending the rest of the match fouling and wasting time in a desperate attempt to hold on rather than a match-up between two top teams."
80 min: Chelsea are just swinging crosses into the Liverpool area from either side. Again and again. Liverpool have soaked it all up so far, but this match is far from over, and there's a sense that something has to break soon. "Is there some rule that John Terry can not be given a yellow card?" asks Gene Salorio. Yes, probably. "Knee in the back on a ridiculous challenge on Torres in first half, now a body slam on Kuyt (again airborne) where he got nowhere near the ball, nor never was going to. If, say, Ryan Shawcross had committed those two, he might have been sent off with two yellow cards."
81 min: Torres tries to Garrincha straight through the middle, but despite beating two challenges can't ride the third. Chelsea clear. Maxi, in acres screaming for the ball, continues to scream, but possibly using different words.
83 min: And still the Chelsea crosses come. Sturridge attempts to steer a low header into the right-hand side of the net. The effort is wide.
84 min: Shelvey comes on for the returning Kuyt, who must be knackered after his layoff.
85 min: Now Torres Garrinchas down the left, but runs the ball out of play with Bosingwa in control of the situation.
86 min: Anelka, down the inside-right channel, hammers a shot goalwards. Reina manages to tip it onto the bar. The ball's rebounding out to Drogba, two yards out, but Carragher gets his body in the way and Reina smothers. This doesn't look like Chelsea's day at all.
87 min: Now Reina overruns a ball down the inside-left channel, and nearly lets Sturridge in. The keeper turns and manages to throw himself over the ball before the striker can nip in. Liverpool are nervous.
88 min: To the warmest of ovations, Torres is replaced by Ngog.
89 min: Sturridge nips inside from the right and lashes a shot goalwards, but it's not the hardest he'll ever hit, and Reina is fully behind it. "It's marathon weekend here in New York," explains Adam Nosurname, "so it's not worth venturing outside as half the city is shutdown. If people were wondering, the marathon is being televised here, and yes, 'It's live!!!!'"
90 min: Alex is booked for clattering into Ngog, as the two challenge a high ball down the Liverpool left. Ngog wins the header, nudging it past the defender, but can't get round the blue shirt before being felled. The crowd bay for red, but there was cover in the middle.
90 min +1: There will be three added minutes, of which this is the first. Spearing comes on for Meireles, who has been industrious and quietly outstanding.
90 min +2: Maxi is sent clear into the area. He dances past Cech and clatters into the keeper, before going down late. That probably should have been a penalty, but it's not going to matter.
FULL TIME: Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea. Anfield erupts at Liverpool's first big win for a wee while. That's a great result for the home side, who deserved that despite asking for trouble by sitting so deep in the second half. But a very poor one for the league leaders. Chelsea are still on top of the table, mind, two clear of Manchester United, while Liverpool are now in the top half of the table. On the same number of points as Tottenham, after that start as well. "Can Mrs Henry please attend every match from now on?" asks a very pleased Jonny Mac.
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.