Bridge Banter: Chelsea all set for savoury Liverpool match-up

First published in Sport This Is Local London: Photograph of the Author by

Sunday’s clash at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Liverpool promises to be savoury.
 

The clubs have played each other so often in different competitions in recent years, there’s a spiky, tetchy rivalry.
 

This is heightened by the fact that the name still tattooed on many Kopites’ arms is that of one-time Merseyside god Fernando Torres, whose £50million move to SW6 triggered the biggest donation of unwanted named shirts to Liverpool’s Oxfam shop.
 

The game sees the return of a well-respected man to the Bridge. Brendan Rodgers was head youth coach in the Jose Mourinho era, leaving to take charge at Watford before winding up at Anfield via Reading and Swansea.
 

He’s guaranteed a good reception on his return, although that goodwill is likely to be put on hold once the whistle blows.
 

Chelsea need to return to winning ways after surrendering a lead at Rodgers’ old haunt, Swansea City’s Liberty stadium, last weekend.
 

Eighty-eighth minute equalisers hurt, and the Blues slipped off the top of the Premier League table as a result.
 

So what was the key to that draw? Missing Juan Mata.
 

The midfielder, named October’s player of the month, was at home with his feet up after experiencing a hamstring tweak following the gruelling 120 minutes against Manchester United in the 5-4 League Cup thriller at the Bridge the week before.
 

And boy was he missed. Oscar, Eden Hazard and Victor Moses simply didn’t achieve the effortless, instinctive midfield interplay Mata is able to mastermind in his sleep.
 

Chelsea didn’t run smoothly at Swansea, with Torres again looking hesitant in front of goal where once he’d have been confident and majestic.
 

The striker will be keen to turn the inevitable Liverpool fans’ jeers into positive motivation on Sunday, with the prospect of Mata’s return
giving the Blues an important fillip.
 

“He’s an influential player for us,” conceded Roberto Di Matteo after the Swansea draw.
 

Too bloomin’ right.

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