Get ready for the hype

What will the hype be like for the Liverpool-Chelsea Champions League Semi Final? The newspapers will enjoy it. Headlines-a-plenty for the back pages – before, during and after each leg. TV coverage will depend on which leg is about to be played – Sky get one game, ITV the other.

The first leg is at Stamford Bridge – played on Wednesday April 27th, kicking off at 7:45pm.

The return leg takes place at Anfield – played on Tuesday May 3rd, again kicking off at 7:45pm.

The luck of the draw from a TV point of view has perhaps gone ITV’s way.

Under the current TV rights deals, ITV get first choice on two Tuesday night games (where there are two games being played) and Sky basically get the rest, including the Wednesday night games.

This means Sky will be showing the first leg, at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool will be looking to get an away goal at Chelsea’s ground to take back to Anfield. By that stage the hype will have reached a pretty high level, but there’ll still be more to come.

Six days later and Anfield will host what could be another memorable night in their European History. The game will be on ITV1 meaning that practically anyone in the UK will be able to see the game. No subscriptions, no satellite dishes required. Viewing figures could be high, especially if the result from the first leg leaves the outcome still very much open.

Two days after the second leg and the people of Britain will be off to vote for the next Prime Minister. No doubt there’ll be links made between each club and key members from each party. These claims will be further heightened once the winner of the tie is known. Colours of the two teams can be brought into play too – the two parties with the highest number of seats in Parliament now and in many recent years are traditionally represented by a particular colour each. Red for Labour. Blue for Conservative. The referee will probably wear yellow, the colour of the Liberal Democrats, the party currently in third place in the Parliament league table. We don’t actually recommend that you neccessarily base your choice of local MP on the basis of your favourite football team – unless Kenny Dalglish decided to run for a seat, in which case he’d probably get our vote every day.

The battle to get Steven Gerrard to sign for Chelsea is being fought already, and has been for some time. All that Chelsea have to do is get permission to talk to him, then persuade him. The hype surrounding Stevie G will increase all the more between now and the two legs. The latest links have come from the reliable mouth of a Premier League manager from Manchester. Stuart Pearce is one of the two Premier League managers, he’s gone on record in his autobiography that he hates Liverpool, but the hints that are being made are that he wasn’t the manager that made the comments. Thankfully Liverpool haven’t been linked with a move for Frank Lampard. Gerrard and Lampard were today nominated for PFA player-of-the-year awards alongside Petr Cech and John Terry also of Chelsea. Two others were nominated but there’s probably little point mentioning their names as they’ll not be mentioned anywhere again.

Jamie Carragher’s omission from the PFA awards is not surprising, but should be surprising. Players like Carragher are unfancied by many – he’s not the type to go looking for the limelight, and aside from a Christmas party incident that was reported many years ago, he’s not the type to get himself headlines off the pitch. John Terry is going to need to look over his shoulder as far as England places are concerned if Carragher’s improvement continues. Look for this comparison in the press as the games draw nearer.

We’ve commented before on this site that Liverpool goalkeepers get pulled up for mistakes in the press more than keepers from any other team. This trend has continued with 19-year-old Scott Carson. He stood in for the injured Jerzy Dudek and Chris Kirkland in Liverpool’s last few games, but Dudek got his place back last night in Turin. Petr Cech is hailed as the best goalkeeper in the universe right now by the press, and if he did make a mistake, he’d be "unlucky".

Liverpool have struggled for much of the season with injuries – a problem that’s not really ever likely to be a problem for Chelsea. In many ways Liverpool’s problems with injuries this season could bring benefits in future seasons – the experience given to the likes of Carson and John Welsh will be useful as they mature. Robbie Fowler’s professional career got off to a great start when he scored five goals against Fulham on his debut – but he only started due to injuries elsewhere in the squad. Chelsea don’t bother with youth players now – why should they when they can buy who they like? Correction – who they like except Gerrard. If proposed rules by the governing bodies come into play though, Chelsea will need to find some home-grown players to bring into their squads, as there’ll be a minimum number required by each team. Then again, Chelsea will no doubt buy the best youth players just young enough for them to be classed as "home-grown".

The two games will be Liverpool’s fourth and fifth meetings of the season against Chelsea. Two league defeats and one League Cup defeat for Liverpool. The three games were all close however, and it’s not every day that Steven Gerrard scores an own goal. Frank Lampard will be dreading facing Xabi Alonso again – the Chelsea midfielder broke the Spaniard’s ankle in the New Year’s Day clash.

The thing to remember, as a Liverpool fan, is that Chelsea will be hyped up for doing a Treble. They’ll probably have won the league by then as Arsenal and Manchester United continue to roll over. They’ve already won the League Cup as we’ve already said. So as a Liverpool fan, you’ve to let the press award the Treble to Chelsea. Let the TV pundits put Liverpool so far down as underdogs that you wonder whether the tie will be awarded to Chelsea regardless. Laugh as Chelsea players from their glorious past (?) are brought into TV studios to say how good this Chelsea team are. Remember though – it’s what happens on the pitch that matters, and Mourhinio isn’t able to influence the officials in a European match.

Enjoy the hype, but don’t let it get you down, and enjoy the games as Liverpool look to come out victorious from their seventh European Cup semi-final.