Liverpool fans in quandary over Chelsea clash

LONDON - One scouse prankster this week posted a spoof Liverpool team to face Chelsea in Sunday's pivotal Premier League match on a fans' internet chatroom, a motley crew including singer Cilla Black and comedian Ken Dodd.

Various other Merseyside celebrities were included on a team sheet that lacked any actual footballers apart from Lucas, a player still to win over the Liverpool fans.

Chelsea's visit to Anfield on Sunday has certainly enlivened debate on the streets of Liverpool where victory, or even a draw, for Rafael Benitez's side would open the door for bitter rivals Manchester United to snatch the title.

There is a school of thought that Liverpool fans would rather lose to Chelsea to prevent United, who are away to Sunderland later on Sunday, moving ahead of Liverpool's cherished record of 18 league titles.

With Chelsea, a point clear at the top with two games left, at home to Wigan Athletic on the final day of the season it would appear that United's hopes of a fourth consecutive title now rest on which Liverpool side shows up on Sunday.

Chelsea have not beaten Liverpool at Anfield in the league since Jose Mourinho left the club, although they did win 3-1 there last season in the Champions League quarter-finals.

During the last five seasons the teams have clashed on 24 occasions, most notably in the Champions League where Liverpool can boast two semi-final victories to Chelsea's one, so there is an intense rivalry that should reassure United fans.

EXPECTING GIFTS

Chelsea's players are certainly not expecting gifts as they seek the first of two victories that would clinch the trophy in Carlo Ancelotti's first season in charge.

"We want to carry momentum through. If you don't turn up and don't play with the intensity we did on Sunday (in the 7-0 defeat of Stoke City) then we'll lose at Anfield, simple as that," midfielder Frank Lampard told Chelsea's website.

"If we win two games then we win the league, if we don't then we might have to rely on goals, depending on Man United results.

"It's a difficult game, whoever goes to Liverpool understands it's a difficult game whatever stage of the season we're at."

Skipper John Terry will return for Chelsea after missing the thrashing of Stoke last week through suspension but Liverpool will be without striker Fernando Torres as they aim to keep alive their slim chances of a top-four finish.

They are in seventh place, but only two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur who, like sixth-placed Manchester City, have played a game less than Benitez's side.

"We have a couple of games left and the idea is to take maximum points and see if we can get into the Champions League through the back door," Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard told the club's website.

Whatever happens at Anfield, a United victory is no guarantee at Sunderland who have lost just once at home since the opening week of the season. Sir Alex Ferguson's side will be without leading striker Wayne Rooney who has a groin strain.

With the relegation issues decided, the battle for fourth spot remains intriguing with Tottenham, in pole position, at home to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday when Manchester City and Aston Villa, the two si