Sunday's Premier League clash between Liverpool and Chelsea promises to be exciting.
With Rafael Benitez returning Anfield, it's certainly going to be a day of mixed emotions for the Spaniard. Interestingly, Rafa's return in the opposition dugout comes a tender six days after the anniversary of Hillsborough and the knowledge that in less than a month his miserable, inconsistent reign at Chelsea comes to an end.
Maintaining the tag of a Kop-idol is certainly something to be proud of for Benitez; after all, he did enjoy great success at Liverpool. The question running through all Chelsea fans' minds is: can Benitez put his sentiment to one side come Sunday?
Liverpool boast an excellent record against Chelsea in the league, being unbeaten in the last five encounters, winning four and drawing one. Recently, Liverpool have always seemed to raise their game against Chelsea, regardless of whether it will effect their overall league standing.
With the extra motivation of finishing above their bitter Merseyside rivals Everton, this could give Liverpool the impetus they need to win the game. However, with the ever-inconsistent Chelsea ending their three-match away loosing streak mid-week against a lackluster Fulham outfit, it ultimately depends on which team turns up.
Chelsea's Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill and Marko Marin remain a doubt for the game, which may give Benitez more enthusiasm to continue with his squad rotation policy. Liverpool have no new injury concerns, while Fabio Borini, Joe Allen, Raheem Sterling and Martin Kelly all remain sidelined.
Chelsea arguably have a lot more to play for than Liverpool, but it all depends on which team Benitez decides to field. Losing to relegation-threatened Southampton one week and beating champions-elect Manchester United another, is just a small insight into the volatile performances Chelsea can produce depending on team selection.
However, there was a great number of positives for Chelsea against Fulham in mid-week. The unity and professionalism are just a few qualities demonstrated from the Blues, showing how potent they can be.
Evidently, a pivotal concern for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool is finding new ways to conquer defences without the use of Luis Suarez. The mere fact that Suarez has scored 40% of Liverpool's goals this season shows their inability to finish teams off, which arguably is the reason Liverpool have not pushed hard enough for Champions League qualification this season.
Potentially, this is where the match could be won. If Chelsea are able to isolate the lively Suarez, the statistics point to a Liverpool loss. With Jamie Carragher in the twilight in his final season for Liverpool, passion is something he certainly does not lack. However at 35 years old, defending against a quick, powerful, free-scoring Chelsea attacking side, indicates that he may be a weakness for Liverpool.
Essentially, the match is going to be a fiery encounter as always, but all the signs point to a Chelsea victory.
Prediction: Liverpool 1 - 2 Chelsea
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