'Stop Gerrard to beat Reds'
Steven Gerrard (Gallo Images)
Liverpool - Carlo Ancelotti has told his Chelsea stars that stopping in-form Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard is the key to victory at Anfield on Sunday.
Ancelotti's side will stay at least five points clear at the top of the Premier League table if they return from Merseyside with a win this weekend.
The Blues will once again be without midfielder Frank Lampard, who is still struggling with a groin problem, but Michael Essien and Florent Malouda are both expected to return and Ancelotti is confident his team can emulate last season's crucial victory against Liverpool.
He believes midfield trio Essien, John Obi Mikel and Yuri Zhirkov will play a major role in Chelsea's gameplan by keeping a close watch on Gerrard, who was described by team-mate Jamie Carragher as the best player in Liverpool's history after his midweek hat-trick against Napoli in the Europa League.
"It's not enough to play at 90 percent. We have to play 100 percent to win there because now Gerrard is in fantastic condition," Ancelotti said.
"This victory (against Napoli) was important in improving their confidence, so we have to be ready to fight and stay focused for the whole game."
Referring to that 2-0 victory over Liverpool in early May, Ancelotti said: "It was the most important game of last season, and the key to winning the title.
"We have to play against a different team, of course - they've changed the manager and have had some problems since the beginning of the season. But they've moved on and won the last three games.
"We have to think they're one of the best teams in England. There'll be a fantastic atmosphere there and they'll have the support of their fans. To win there we have to do our best."
While Chelsea have taken the title three times in the last six years, Liverpool have not won the league for two decades and Ancelotti is baffled by their lack of success.
"I'm surprised," he admitted. "A side able to win the Champions League should be able to win the Premier League. That surprises me.
"Some clubs, like Milan, have more confidence playing in the Champions League with their history than in the Premier League.
"It's difficult explaining, but it's true. Milan were more comfortable in the Champions League. Liverpool have that history and tradition as well, and it's the same."
Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has struggled to establish himself since succeeding Rafael Benitez, although three successive victories have at least lifted some of the gloom.
Hodgson is confident Fernando Torres will soon be back to his best but he has warned the rest of the squad he expects others to step up to the mark and support the efforts of the Spain striker and Gerrard.
"It was a magnificent hat-trick from Steven against Napoli and I'm hoping he hasn't taken too much out of himself before Sunday, because we are going to need him to do that for the whole of the game against Chelsea," Hodgson said.
"Fernando is working hard in training and he's looking more like his old self. It's a pleasure to have a player of that quality to work with.
"Steven and Fernando are two wonderful quality players, but other players have got to start stepping up to the plate as well.
"We can't just rely on Fernando and Steven in every game because if ever one or two of them has a slightly lesser game we need to show we will not throw the towel in.
"We've got to have a few people nailing their colours to the mast and making certain they step up and make sure we are a good team."