REDS FACE CHELSEA DILEMMA
LONDON - One Scouse prankster this week posted a spoof Liverpool team to face Chelsea in Sunday's pivotal Premier League match on a fans' Internet chatroom, a motley crew including singer Cilla Black and comedian Ken Dodd.
Various other Merseyside celebrities were included on a team sheet that lacked any actual footballers apart from Lucas, a player still to win over the Liverpool fans.
Chelsea's visit to Anfield on Sunday has enlivened debate on the streets of Liverpool where victory, or even a draw, for Rafael Benitez's side would open the door for bitter rivals Manchester United to snatch the title.
There is a school of thought that Liverpool fans would rather lose to Chelsea to prevent United, who are away to Sunderland later on Sunday, moving ahead of Liverpool's record of 18 league titles.
With Chelsea, who are a point clear at the top with two games left, at home to Wigan Athletic on the final day of the season it would appear that United's hopes of a fourth consecutive title now rest on Liverpool.
Chelsea have not beaten Liverpool at Anfield in the league since Jose Mourinho left the club, though they did win 3-1 there last season in the Champions League quarterfinals.
In the past five seasons the teams have clashed 24 times, most notably in the Champions League where Liverpool can boast two semifinal victories to Chelsea's one, so there is an intense rivalry that should reassure United fans.
Chelsea's players are not expecting gifts as they seek the first of two victories that would clinch the trophy in Carlo Ancelotti's first season in charge.
Skipper John Terry will return for Chelsea after missing the thrashing of Stoke last week through suspension but Liverpool will be without striker Fernando Torres as they aim to keep alive their slim chances of a top-four finish. They are seventh but only two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur who, like sixth-placed Manchester City, have played a game less than Benitez's side.
Whatever happens at Anfield, a United victory is no guarantee at Sunderland, who have lost just once at home this season. Alex Ferguson's side will be without leading striker Wayne Rooney, who has a groin strain.
The battle for fourth spot remains intriguing with Tottenham, in pole position, at home to Bolton Wanderers tomorrow when Manchester City and Aston Villa, the two sides just below them, meet at Eastlands. - Reuters