Liverpool vs Chelsea – The hate-filled rivalry that fizzled out

Chelsea vs Crystal Palace in pictures

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Liverpool host Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, with both sides in the rather enigmatic position of being in mid-table and cut adrift of the top four with half of the season already behind them. The two powerhouses once found themselves locked in a hate-filled rivalry stoked by Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez. But the enmity between the two clubs has all but fizzled out in recent years, and the current managers will only have thoughts of securing three valuable points when the match at Anfield gets underway.

When Chelsea defeated Liverpool 2-1 in the Premier League on the final day of the 2002/03 campaign, the result saw the Blues secure a Champions League place at the expense of the Reds. A month later Roman Abramovich had agreed a deal to buy the west London giants for just £60million.

The following season, Chelsea finished second in the Premier League, with Liverpool cementing a return to the Champions League by ending the campaign in fourth place. And the rivalry between the two clubs really got going in the summer of 2004 after the Blues appointed Mourinho as boss and the Merseysiders turned to Benitez.

The two Iberian managers revolutionised English football with their tactical nous and forward-thinking attitudes. And they would come to blows time and time again.

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Mourinho’s appointment at Stamford Bridge proved to be a catalyst for a spell of Premier League dominance as Chelsea won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. But Mourinho struggled to get the better of Benitez in the cup competitions.

In 2005, Chelsea lifted the League Cup after dispatching Liverpool in extra time in the final at the Millennium Stadium. But two months later, the Reds exacted their revenge after overcoming Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals, with Luis Garcia grabbing the only goal of the two-legged tie in the second encounter at Anfield.

But there were doubts over whether Garcia’s strike actually crossed the line, with a furious Mourinho describing it as a “ghost goal.” To make matters worse, the Reds went on to lift the trophy following a stunning comeback against AC Milan in the final.

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Liverpool and Chelsea were then drawn against each other in Group G of the Champions League during the 2005/06 campaign, before the Reds defeated their rivals in the FA Cup semi-final on their way to lifting the trophy later that season. At the start of the 2006/07 campaign, the Merseysiders beat the west Londoners in the Community Shield and again got the better of Mourinho’s team at the semi-final stage of the Champions League following a penalty shootout after the second leg.

Chelsea finally learnt to tame Benitez after Mourinho had departed Stamford Bridge and got the better of the Reds in the fifth round of the League Cup in 2007/08, before knocking the Reds out of the Champions League in the last four. And in the 2008/09 campaign, Chelsea defeated Liverpool in the European quarter-finals.

There were other factors which contributed to the clubs’ intense rivalry, with Mourinho desperate to sign Steven Gerrard, before Fernando Torres did swap Anfield for Stamford Bridge in 2011. And in 2012 ahead of an FA Cup semi-final between the two clubs, a section of the Chelsea support booed and jeered during a moment of silence to remember the Hillsborough victims.

In recent years, Liverpool’s matches with Chelsea haven’t been anywhere near as dramatic as they were throughout the noughties, with the Reds instead going on to have a rivalry with Manchester City in the battle for league and cup honours. And after a precipitous downturn in fortunes for both clubs this season, there will be little more than bragging rights at stake on top of the three points when Graham Potter takes his men to face Jurgen Klopp’s side on Saturday.

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