Chelsea face 'bogey team' Liverpool
After four straight league defeats against the Anfield club, anxiety mounts despite need to keep pressure on leaders Manchester United
Roberto Di Matteo admits Liverpool have become Chelsea's "bogey team" ahead of the visit of Brendan Rodgers' side to Stamford Bridge today.
The importance of maintaining the pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester United will provide a more powerful incentive to the Blues, but Di Matteo's side are also anxious to end a run of four straight league defeats against the Anfield club.
Chelsea savoured success by beating Liverpool in last season's FA Cup final, but with the current title race threatening to be a tight, three-way battle among the Blues, United and Manchester City, league points are now the immediate priority.
Manager Di Matteo said: "They are our bogey team. They seem always to play exceptionally well against us and get results. It is always difficult and very difficult to beat them. It hasn't happened too often in the last three years. We have to be aware of that and be very focused and try to play a very good game.
"First of all, they have very good players and they seem to have an exceptional game, one of their best of the season, whenever they play us.
"They always find to play us in a moment when we are not at our best. Sunday, we are in good spirits, full of confidence and the team is playing well. Hopefully it will be a different story."
Di Matteo's desire to reverse the recent trend will be shared by Fernando Torres, who has yet to score against his former club since his £50 million (HK$618 million) move in January 2011. Torres' performances have improved this season and he scored in the midweek Champions League victory over Shakhtar Donetsk, but the Spain international has yet to reproduce the form he showed at Anfield.
"Sometimes playing against your old team gives extra motivation, sometimes it inhibits you," Di Matteo said. "It depends on his frame of mind.
"I am happy with his contribution. It is not about him repaying my faith. It's about him performing for the club. I hope every player feels they have the confidence of the manager."
Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel shares the view that Torres, who has scored seven goals this season, remains a potent force. "Even if he isn't scoring goals at the moment, he is still one of the best strikers in the world and still dangerous," Skrtel said. "I haven't seen Chelsea play too many times this season but from what I've heard, his performances are better than last season."