Liverpool, Chelsea desperate for final Champions League spot

It was dubbed the Sh 2.7b (£20million) match back in 2003, now, of course, the prize of reaching the Champions League is worth a whole lot more.

Just a month before the dawn of the Roman Abramovich era, Liverpool travelled to London in a winner-takes-all showdown against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Sami Hyppia nodded the visitors into the lead with just 11 minutes gone and all looked rosy for the red half of Merseyside, but not for long.

A powerful Marcel Desailly header levelled proceedings just two minutes later and, just like that, Liverpool’s lead had vanished.

Then, Chelsea turned the screw and Jesper Gronkjaer popped up with what was ultimately the decisive goal.

Gronkjaer’s strike not only cost Liverpool the match, it consigned them to the consolation prize of a UEFA Cup spot.

The years which followed under Abramovich were laden with star players and yielded Premier League trophies, FA Cups and even a Champions League.

Liverpool’s fortunes, on the other hand, have been less kind in the intervening years. This weekend, however, the Reds have a golden opportunity to finally return the favour.

Chelsea go into the final day of the season in fifth place, two points behind their Merseyside rivals and with a far inferior goal difference.

Antonio Conte will be praying that Brighton travel to Liverpool and come away with all three points, while nothing but a victory against Newcastle will do for his men.

The bad news for Chelsea, however, is Liverpool’s formidable home form. Jurgen Klopp’s side have not lost a game at Anfield all season, having won 11 of their 18 league matches there.

Couple that with Brighton’s away form, which is the second-worst in the Premier League, then, on paper, it does not make for good reading for the west London outfit.

The Seagulls have also won only twice away from the AMEX Stadium this season, the most recent of which came back in November against Championship-bound Swansea.

And having met 26 times in their history in all competitions, Brighton have managed only four wins, the last of which came 34 years ago in the FA Cup.

So, as far as the form book goes, the Reds will be quietly confident going into Sunday’s tie.

Liverpool, of course, have another means of retaining their status as a Champions League side when they meet Real Madrid in Kiev for this year’s showpiece later this month.

However, Conte will be focused solely on what his team have control over – and that is their meeting with Newcastle.

Chelsea have earned 33 points away from the Bridge this term and will need to push that tally up to 36 this weekend if they stand any chance of making Europe’s premier competition next season.                                                       -DAILYMAIL

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