Liverpool v Chelsea – Kuyt and Kelly start

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt returns to the starting line-up for today’s visit of Chelsea, with Martin Kelly coming in at right-back and Jamie Carragher moving back to the centre of defence.

Hodgson has picked what seems to be his strongest possible back-four, a glance at the subs’ bench confirms as much. Glen Johnson made his return from injury on Thursday night but had to withdraw – late – from today’s game with a minor adductor injury. Soto Kyrgiakos, one of Liverpool’s best players in recent weeks, is missing due to illness. Daniel Agger still isn’t feigning his injury and was unavailable today, along with Fabio Aurelio who seems to be having less luck with injuries than he was before being released at the end of his last Anfield contract.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba is on the bench, ex-Red Nicolas Anelka starting up-front.

The Reds play host to the side from Stamford Bridge in a fixture that should be getting billed as a battle between two league-title contenders. Chelsea of course are favourites for the title, but just 18 months after finishing above them in second place Liverpool aren’t even considered outsiders.

It doesn’t mean Liverpool can’t win today; in fact it’s an ideal opportunity for the 11 who start the game to show the watching owners why they deserve – or deserved – a new contract. It’s a chance for those who think their future lies elsewhere to impress anyone who might be willing to help them with that. It’s a chance for the manager to show the owners that maybe the vast majority of supporters are wrong in thinking he should be moved out at the end of the season – if not far sooner.

NESV have worked hard to find out as many facts as they can, to hear as many opinions as they can, as part of their attempts to work out just where to start in tidying up the mess left behind by the previous owners. The diplomacy they showed towards Hodgson in their most recent interviews is only to be expected – they’ll back the manager until his last day as Liverpool manager. What remains to be seen is exactly how far away that last day is.

John Henry in particular has been going out of his way to find out as much as he possibly can about the club, not just its long term history (the type that Liverpool fans like to sing about when Chelsea turn up at Anfield) but also its most recent history. NESV will quietly go about their plans to turn LFC back into a football club instead of a training ground for politicians.

Christian Purslow has already stepped aside, a decision it is reported was made for him, but one that didn’t leak out before it was made official. The appointment of Damien Comolli was done quietly and quickly too. NESV listen, learn, act. Today they get to see how big the gulf is between Liverpool and the types of club they have to compete with if they want Liverpool’s future to be as prestigious as the history the club is built on.

Paddy Power are offering a Money-Back Special on today’s Liverpool-Chelsea game: “If Steven Gerrard scores at anytime in this match, Paddy Power will refund all losing 1st /last goalscorer, correct score & scorecast singles on the match.”

Liverpool: 25 Reina; 34 Kelly, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 3 Konchesky; 21 Lucas, 4 Meireles; 18 Kuyt, 8 Gerrard, 17 Maxi; 9 Torres.
Subs: 41 Hansen, 22 Wilson, 26 Spearing, 28 C Poulsen, 33 Shelvey, 14 Jovanovic, 24 Ngog

Chelsea: 1 Cech, 2 Ivanovic, 3 A Cole, 26 Terry, 33 Alex, 7 Ramires, 12 Mikel, 15 Malouda, 18 Zhirkov, 21 Kalou, 39 Anelka
Subs: 22 Turnbull, 17 Bosingwa, 19 Ferreira, 46 McEachran, 11 Drogba, 23 Sturridge, 44 Kakuta

Referee: Howard Webb
Assistant referees: Darren Cann, Trevor Massey
Fourth official: Mike Jones

Win/Draw/Win odds: Liverpool: 11/4 / Draw: 11/5 / Chelsea: 11/10
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