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Torres set for first return to Anfield

May 7, 2012


• José Bosingwa may be rested for trip to Merseyside
• Chelsea still chasing a top-four finish

Roberto Di Matteo is expected to hand Fer nando Torres a place in the Chelsea starting lineup against Liverpool on Tuesday night, giving the striker his first action at Anfield since his British record £50m move to London 15 months ago, as his side attempt to maintain their faint hopes of a top‑four finish.

The FA Cup winners will travel to Merseyside for a swift rematch against the team they defeated at Wembley needing to win to stand any chance of being in contention for a top‑four spot when they host Blackburn Rovers in their final game on Sunday. Had Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United won on Sunday then Chelsea would already be contemplating a sixth-place finish, their lowest in a decade. Yet the failure of the three sides immediately above them in the table to emerge victorious from the penultimate round of matches means Di Matteo’s team can still strictly finish as high as third, above Arsenal.

That scenario remains unlikely but the team selection at Anfield will reflect such a possibility even with the Champions League final against Bayern Munich to come this month. The interim first-team coach indicated at the weekend that his selection would “depend on Sunday’s results” and, while the likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Juan Mata are all likely to sit out the match, the coach will still pick a strong side that includes experience.

Torres, an unused substitute at Wembley whose three meetings with his former club since moving south have been lost at Stamford Bridge, should start with Ryan Bertrand drafted in at left-back, the former Liverpool midfielder Raul Meireles coming in for Lampard and Michael Essien replacing Mikel John Obi at his side. Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda will also hope for some involvement.

The game will come too soon for both David Luiz and Gary Cahill, who continue their rehabilitation from hamstring injuries which threaten their chances of playing in the European Cup final in Munich , and José Bosingwa, a potential emergency centre-half in Munich, may be rested at Anfield with either Paulo Ferreira or Sam Hutchinson, who has not started a game since September 2009, utilised at right‑back.

The fixture could yet prove to be Di Matteo’s penultimate Premier League match in charge, with the Italian still unsure where his future will lie beyond the end of the season as Roman Abramovich contemplates a permanent successor for André Villas-Boas. Pep Guardiola, the oligarch’s first choice, has reiterated that he intends to take a sabbatical after leaving Barcelona, thus ruling him out of contention, and support gathers within the Chelsea set-up for Di Matteo to be offered the role on a full-time basis.

The playing staff, buoyed by securing silverware at the weekend, continue to praise the stand-in’s impact. “Robbie knows how to manage this team,” said Mikel. “He is very similar to the way (Guus) Hiddink and (Jose) Mourinho did the j ob. He came in and noticed where the problem is, and put it right. If you are not going to be involved he puts his arm around you and tells you he believes in you and that, in the next game, you are going to be involved. I think his man-management has been fantastic. All the players, even the big players, like what he is doing and, hopefully, the club will make the right decision.” Read More


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