Jerzy Dudek has warned Chelsea that he’s onto them. Liverpool’s keeper expects the build-up to the Champions League clash to turn dirty as Chelsea turn to off-the-field tactics to try and edge the game their way.
Chelsea have beaten Liverpool three times this season, but the last two have been extremely close, and certainly the gap in league points wasn’t reflected in the performances on the day.
Dudek told the Observer how he expected them to use the media to upset the Reds: "We know it won’t be easy. We expect the Steven Gerrard situation to come up again, but we’re used to it and realise that this is a notorious tactic to lower a rival’s morale before a big tie".
This sort of story has appeared in the press prior to big games for years with Liverpool’s big-name players. Steve McManaman was due to leave the Reds well before any actual transfer activity took place. Robbie Fowler was linked with Arsenal regularly – and even Manchester United at one point. These links would be regularly published in the days leading up to a high-profile game.
Chelsea’s boss Jose Mourhino was "sent off" the last time the two teams met, for making inflammatory gestures to the Liverpool fans. The richest club in English football probably have the best lawyer available on their staff, and that means they know how far they can push the rules. Mourhino received no further punishment for his actions. If Liverpool fans were as bad as some tried to make out during the recent Heysel commemorations then Mourhino would have been responsible for a riot.
Chelsea’s two main rivals in the league right now are Arsenal and Manchester United. Chelsea are in trouble with the FA for allegedly trying to tap-up Ashley Cole, and had to issue a strongly-worded statement claiming that Rio Ferdinand met Peter Kenyon in a London restaurant by accident. Dudek sees that Chelsea are just looking to win at any cost – financially and morally: "I get the impression that with them anything goes, any method is acceptable to break an opponent’s spirit, make them feel uncertain or upset. But it won’t bother me in any way. We’ll expect more of it as the games approach and we’ll be ready for them."
Did we mention Mourhino being banned from being involved in the dug-out for Chelsea’s last two Champions League games, for putting pressure on referee Anders Frisk, hinting at him being a cheat? Anders Frisk retired after that. For years Manchester United used these tactics with great success (David Elleray will tell you that), but Chelsea are stepping them up a few levels. Manchester United made an illegal approach to sign Japp Stam according to autobiographies by Stam and Ferguson published after Stam had left United. Reports say that Ferguson is pushing the United board to raise a formal complaint with the FA over the Ferdinand incident.
Maybe Chelsea’s boss has read the autobiographies and is finding extra tactical ideas that you don’t learn at coaching school. Keep an eye out for him carrying his own stop-watch and changing his team’s shirts at half-time.