Bolton win will see Liverpool closer to Istanbul
A Bolton win over Chelsea will significantly boost Liverpool's chances of overturning the Blues next Tuesday.
The parallel to Arsenal's demise in Europe last season is the basis for this statement. Let me run you through this.
On the Saturday morning before a second leg quarters tie against Chelsea, Arsenal were unbeaten and clear ahead in the league, in the semis of the FA Cup, and had an away goal after an awesome game of football in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.
This was proving to be an exceptional season by any standards. Arsenal were not only playing scintillating football, but had forgotten how to lose. They had earned a crucial mental edge over the opposition.
At lunchtime Arsenal faced Man Utd in the cup. Henry was rested among others with an eye on the second leg. Man Utd played their typical over-physical game, grabbed a lead, kicked Pires and Reyes all over the pitch, and reduced Arsenal to an uncharacteristic long ball game in the second half that got the Gunners nowhere.
Result: out of the cup; a mental shock and consequent loss of momentum after losing their first game of the season to domestic oppostion (sorry Boro fans but a Carling cup semi with a youth team doesn't count); and only a three day physical recovery before taking on a fresh and in-form Chelsea team.
Arsenal went into the first half against Chelsea on adrenaline. Henry blew a couple of chances before Reyes put Arsenal deservedly ahead on the half-time whistle. But if a goal against you could ever come at a good time, this was one for Chelsea. Ranieri regrouped his team in the half-time break, and they came out with strength.
Lehmann spilled a long range effort and Lampard raced in to snap up the rebound. Arsenal deflated mentally for the second time in a few days. Their away goal advantage had gone, the adrenaline drained, and they lacked physical strength relative to Chelsea with the Man Utd defeat taking its toll.
This combination of factors inhibited the Gunners flowing game, and to put it simply Arsenal didn't look like scoring again. Henry was subbed before Bridge surged forward to grab a late winner. A deserved Chelsea victory and Arsenal out of two cups in the space of four days.
Similar conditions are coming into play right now that can benefit Liverpool this year just as Chelsea benefited last year (for Arsenal fans this will be nicely ironic!).
Chelsea have not lost in the league since last October. They have forgotten how to lose and consequently are playing with a mental edge. They are level after the first leg of a champs league tie. And they are going to be playing an over-physical team just three days before the next leg.
A Chelsea loss to Bolton will come as a mental shock. And there will not be much physical recovery time for a team that are now showing signs of strain which is natural for a side that has played high-intensity football all season. Mourinho would have to earn his wages in the three days before the game at Anfield to counter-act these negatives. It will be a great test for the self-appointed 'special one'.
Benitez will want these potential problems to strike Chelsea's players and management. And it is a Bolton win that will put these factors directly into play.
So its quite simple: Liverpool should get right behind the team in sixth come this teatime. The Reebok can get them half way to Istanbul. A rocking Anfield can then complete the job.