Chelsea FC goalkeeper Petr Čech believes Liverpool FC's hunger to return to the UEFA Champions League next season will be the key to Sunday's showcase match in the Premier League at Anfield.
Liverpool, currently playing in the UEFA Europa League, look to be recovering after a perfect storm of protracted ownership issues and a run of performances that had the five-time European champions in the relegation zone. Now under new owners, Roy Hodgson's side have won their last two Premier League games to reach mid-table safety, with five points separating them from fourth-placed Manchester City FC and the prospect of UEFA Champions League football next term.
For Čech, though, the chance to measure themselves against the Premier League leaders will make Liverpool dangerous opponents. "They did well in their last games – they won and got a bit of their confidence back," the Chelsea No1 said. "If they want to compete for a top-four finish they need to start winning games – and to start winning games against strong teams. They have the first possibility against us. They still have a very good squad and they still have the qualities to challenge for a top-four finish."
Liverpool clearly stand to earn more than just a major morale boost if they defeat an opponent with whom they have frequently tangled in the UEFA Champions League. Points are at stake and Chelsea's Czech international reckons there remains sufficient time for Hodgson's men to work their way to the upper reaches of the table. "There is still a long way to go and plenty of games to be played," the 28-year-old said. "But when you have such a bad start to the season everything becomes more difficult."
Čech has some sympathy for the Reds even though Chelsea's results sequences tend to be winning rather than winless ones. "In football, everything can go fast," he told reporters. "You can win a few games and you can be flying, and keep winning and winning. Then suddenly one game goes wrong, and the second game goes wrong, and then everything goes wrong. I think there were a lot of things off the pitch and on the pitch [at Liverpool]. It's for them to work on them."
Indeed, Čech's compassion only goes so far and there certainly won't be any this weekend. "We go to Anfield to get three points so that we stay five points ahead of the other teams in the Premier League," he declared.
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