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Dream-killer Eden Hazard and echoes of The Slip™ — Liverpool’s judgement day awaits

Narrative upon narrative upon narrative...

It is impossible to consider Liverpool v Chelsea – this Sunday’s mouthwatering late kick-off – without reviewing significant events of the past.

Almost exactly five years ago, the Blues graced Anfield on a Sunday afternoon for a match that has passed into Premier League folklore.

Although memories of the match are largely limited to one moment — Steven Gerrard’s slip.


A cruel twist of fate

Getty Images - Getty
A cruel twist of fate

Seconds before the half-time whistle, Liverpool’s talismanic captain lost his footing, allowing Demba Ba a one-on-one which the Senegalese forward successfully converted.

This moment triggered a capitulation that allowed Man City to swoop for a league title previously destined for Merseyside.

So decisive is Gerrard’s slip in football’s collective consciousness, it has obscured other aspects of the game.

For example, did you remember Mohamed Salah started for Chelsea that day?

Or that Iago Aspas (and his abysmal corner) was Brendan Rodgers’s last roll of the dice?

Fernando Torres came off the bench for Jose Mourinho’s troops too.

In Torres, Gerrard, Salah and Luis Suarez, you could say Liverpool’s four most defining players of the last decade featured that fateful Sunday afternoon.

Fitting they were all present, given the significance of the fixture.

Same ground, same fixture, same stakes… but different shirt for Salah

Action Images - Reuters
Same ground, same fixture, same stakes… but different shirt for Salah

When Jurgen Klopp’s side step out at Anfield on Sunday – enveloped by a chorus of You’ll Never Walk Alone – they will face two opponents — Chelsea and narrative.

Specifically, a narrative that demands they slip up (excuse the terminology) and gift wrap the Premier League trophy for Man City once more.

However, spun correctly, this daunting task provides Liverpool with an opportunity to relish.

They weren’t required to shift out of third gear at home to Porto on Tuesday night while Maurizio Sarri’s side flew back from Prague late Thursday night.

Beat Chelsea and the hoodoo is broken.

Their two subsequent league fixtures; a trip to relegation favourites Cardiff, followed by a home fixture against bottom-of-the-pile Huddersfield.

The power of narrative should never be underestimated — a win over Chelsea and suddenly the powers that be favour Liverpool.

It means more to them, truly

AFP or licensors
It means more to them, truly

However, the neutrals have surplus ammunition during the build-up.

Chelsea are the only team to win at Anfield in over a year.

And in Eden Hazard, the Blues have a world-class talent with a penchant for killing dreams.

It was the Belgian who ended Spurs’ title hopes in 2016 with a brilliant top-corner finish — a moment not in keeping with his strangely uninspired season.

Few would doubt Liverpool’s current squad are stronger than the Spurs of 2015/16, but the two teams are linked in the sense neither club have won a league title since the Premier League’s inception.

The grim reaper of title hopes

The grim reaper of title hopes

Hazard will be hopeful of spoiling the party once more and the form he displayed against West Ham will have induced nerves in more than a few Liverpool fans.

Let’s not forget, it was Chelsea’s No10 who scored the sensational winner back in September when Klopp’s men were last felled at Anfield.

This Sunday, a player with a reputation for ending title hopes plays in a fixture that mirrors the most famous title surrender of the modern era.

Given all that’s come before, it is impossible for any player, or fan, to think of it as ‘just another game’.

Liverpool’s judgement day awaits.