There have been few matches I’ve rued more than today’s Liverpool-Chelsea contest, yet here we are, just a handful of hours before today’s 3:00 p.m. Eastern kickoff, and I’ve come full circle.
It’s almost as if there was an event horizon of dread I passed through around 5:00 a.m. Or maybe it’s something in the Portland water that’s slowly converted me to hipsterism over the last month. Regardless, I’m now looking forward to just how horrific today’s match might get.
The most obvious reason: These teams have no cause to care about the game. None. While mathematically Chelsea has a chance to finish fourth, they have to jump too many teams for that to be a realistic goal. A more practical goal: Keep their best players healthy for next weekend’s Champions League final.
For Liverpool, it’s unclear when they stopped caring about their league position, but it’s happened, and it happened a long time ago. Pride could spur them to a result against a team that took the FA Cup from them three days ago, but it would be a weird time for pride to suddenly show up. Where was all this reverence when the team was falling to ninth?
Even if these squad are motivated, it’s unlikely we’ll get an entertaining match. Liverpool has trouble scoring goals while these days Chelsea seems to play exclusively on the counter. Saturday’s match was ultimately fine, but the early moments (and in truth, most of the first half) were dire. If it wasn’t for Liverpool bungling their way to an early deficit, we could have all ended up comatose.
Despite my skepticism, there are a couple reasons to think today could be decent. Presumably, Kenny Dalglish will start Andy Carroll. The striker’s inclusion made Saturday’s match watchable. Former Red Fernando Torres is likely to start for Chelsea, with almost anything he does to be judged harshly (if entertainingly) within the context of his £50 million transfer. And we could see a bunch of kids who could be important some day (Chelsea left back Ryan Bertrand, for example).
But if we get the Chelsea and Liverpool sides we’ve seen all year, I’ll be ready. Bring the thud, Premier League. I’ve already faced my dread. If this is going to be two aging, uninspired squads playing out a stakes-free 90, I’ll bring enough irony to make it worth my while.