The Apprentice V The Master
Self-belief is the biggest lesson Rodgers learned under Mourinho
REPORTING FROM THE UK
LIVERPOOL v CHELSEA
(Tonight, 9.05pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 102 & StarHub Ch 227)
If Jose Mourinho sits between perceptions of greatness and decline, Brendan Rodgers somehow finds himself somewhere even more awkward.
By the end of the season, the Northern Irishman will either go down in history as the man responsible for the most unlikely Premier League title win or as the man who blew it all at the final hurdle.
It matters not that, by securing third place at least, Rodgers has far surpassed expectations. Liverpool are too close to something too incredible for perspective to have any effect.
Quite how the man is sleeping is anyone's guess. Even Rodgers himself didn't expect to be here quite this quickly.
The first season was for the laying down of foundations. The second season was to challenge for the top four.
An actual title challenge? That would have to wait until year three or four of the project.
And even then, rebuilding Liverpool without the scale of investment enjoyed by Manchester City or Chelsea was still a huge challenge.
Rodgers, however, has never lacked belief, an attribute he learned at the side of Mourinho in his former guise as a youth team coach at Chelsea.
From the moment he arrived at Melwood, he had a clear idea of how to reshape one of Europe's most famous clubs.
The fact that the idea has changed over the last two years makes the achievement all the more outstanding.
Rodgers' initial plan was to create a Barcelona-style model of possession-based football, schooling everyone at the club, from the youngsters to the senior side, in the art of swift interplay.
Instead, Liverpool have morphed into a rapid reaction force, breaking with the power and pace of a hurricane.
The skills, fortunately, are transferable. Rodgers' players are all comfortable with the ball played fast to feet.
Except Martin Skrtel, of course, but you can't have everything.
Rodgers' self-belief has made his dream a reality. He may have sounded like a rambling evangelist when he first arrived, but more and more of his players have been won over by his words.
Far from keeping feet on the ground, he lavishes his team with praise, convincing them that they are the best in the world until they have no option but to believe it.
Mourinho, of course, pulled a similar trick with Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba.
Rodgers and Mourinho maintain a close friendship, too close perhaps for partisan supporters of their teams.
It is still possible, despite the pre-match mood, that Rodgers will learn something new from his old master.
But by season's end, perhaps it will be the apprentice who will be handing out the lessons.
Trust Mourinho to come up with something special against former student
These are interesting times for Jose Mourinho.
In the coming days, he faces the prospect of a second consecutive season without silverware.
At the same time, he has a chance to become the first man to win the Champions League with three different clubs.
Two games will be the difference between his ascent to the pinnacle of his craft and the perception that his powers are waning.
This is what they mean when they say that it is tough at the top.
Mourinho, even by his own standards, has cut a strange figure of late, almost as if the pressure and the scrutiny is finally beginning to get to the coolest customer in the league.
There was the effusive praise delivered to referee Mike Dean and his boss Mike Riley, delivered with lashings of sarcasm which did nothing to stop the Football Association from charging him with misconduct.
There was the terse press conference before the Atletico Madrid game, a surly affair where he seemed genuinely miserable.
And then there was the unusual proclamation that he would be seeking Roman Abramovich's permission to field a weakened team in what could be the title decider at Liverpool tonight.
At the best of times, it is hard to be sure what impression Mourinho intends the observer to take from his antics.
It was odd of him to give his hand away ahead of the Liverpool game, unless it's an attempt to lull the opposition into a false sense of security.
The gloomy press conference suggested that Mourinho was just bored of the media circus, while the thinly veiled attack on the referees was just lazy.
In camouflage terms, it was like glueing a leaf to your head and hoping that people would mistake you for a tree.
Chelsea loyalists have leapt to his defence, asking how the FA can judge that he was being sarcastic when his words, on face value, are positive.
But a child could see through his ploy.
This is the man who alleged conspiracy in the Anders Frisk affair.
The man who alleged conspiracy when Barcelona were dominant in Spain. Of course he was being sarcastic.
What should concern Chelsea fans is that he wasn't even clever about it.
It's no secret that Mourinho is disappointed with the standard of his squad.
He wants his own players, his own team, people he can trust. But through it all, he continues to secure results.
Were it not for the fact that unfancied Liverpool are at the top, a second-placed finish in a transitional season wouldn't be considered a failure.
And yet it is his former youth team coach, Brendan Rodgers, who has made Mourinho, and every other leading Premier League manager, look inferior.
But write off The Grumpy One at your own peril.
He may come up with something special to teach his former apprentice another lesson in football.
What rodgers learnt
“(Jose Mourinho) was a winner but he didn’t have the protection of being a big player to get his opportunity. He had to go down a different route and what I got from him was the confidence that you can become a leader in your field by doing that.” — Brendan Rodgers
“Our ideas on football weren’t exactly the same but I have seen how he dealt with players, how he gained respect from players and I have taken the good and the bad to learn.”
- TIRELESS WORK ETHIC
“I got from him that you can be super professional. If you work hard you can get your rewards and he worked tirelessly all his life. ”
There is a cost if Chelsea play the same team on Sunday and Wednesday. Jose won’t want to go down that route. But whatever team they put out will be more experienced than ours. Jose is a winner who won’t give up (on the title).
— Brendan Rodgers understands why Mourinho may rest his stars for the clash against Atletico Madrid
You think if i lose one more player, i have any chance to try to play the (Champions League) final? i don’t think we have a chance. i can’t lose more players, especially in some positions, because i don’t have them.
— Jose Mourinho hinting that he may indeed field a weakened team against Liverpool
Rose is in full bloom
STOKE CITY 0
Danny Rose was the central figure as Tottenham won their first away game for more than two months against 10-man Stoke City.
The defender scored his first Premier League goal of the season in the 33rd minute and was then caught by Ryan Shawcross to earn the Stoke captain a second yellow card seven minutes after the break.
Stoke responded well but were unable to find an equaliser as they slipped to only a third home defeat this season.
The main talking point before the game had centred around Charlie Adam, with Spurs boss Tim Sherwood forced to deny his players would refuse to shake the playmaker’s hand. The Scot has become a hate figure for Spurs fans after a serious of controversial tackles, the most recent of which sidelined Paulinho for a month.
In the end, there was no handshake as Adam was a substitute, although that did not stop Tottenham fans jeering him. The visitors were quicker out of the blocks and Nacer Chadli shot wide after only 19 seconds, while Asmir Begovic had to react quickly to push Aaron Lennon’s mis-hit cross past the post.
Shawcross was furious with what he felt was a forearm to the face from Emmanuel Adebayor but referee Andre Marriner took no action.
The home side withstood the early pressure to enjoy a decent spell, and Spurs were grateful for the presence in their defence of Michael Dawson, back after a hamstring injury.
The centre-back was key in dealing with the threat of former Spurs striker Peter Crouch, who was involved as Stoke came close to taking the lead in the 27th minute, playing in Stephen Ireland, who cut in from the left and unleashed a powerful shot that just curled beyond the far post.
But six minutes later it was Spurs who opened the scoring when Adebayor beat Glenn Whelan on the right of the area before sending in a perfect cross for Rose, who planted a fine header past Begovic.
And the visitors might have extended their lead just before half-time when Harry Kane, in search of his fourth goal in four games, was given time and space but he dwelled on the ball a fraction too long and his shot was blocked.
Stoke began the second half brightly with a shot from Marko Arnautovic that flew wide but their hopes of getting anything from the game were dented in the 52nd minute when Shawcross was shown a second yellow card.
The defender, who had been booked for a foul on Christian Eriksen in the first half, caught Rose on the shin with his studs. Referee Marriner initially did not even give a free-kick but, with Rose still on the floor, pulled back play and produced the red card, to the anger of the home fans.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes moved Marc Muniesa to centre-back, with Erik Pieters replacing Stephen Ireland and taking over at left-back. Rose was booed every time he touched the ball and the full-back was booked for pushing Geoff Cameron in the chest after the Stoke man had felled him. His game was over soon after as Sherwood took him out of the firing line to be replaced with Zeki Fryers.
Stoke were fired up and were enjoying their best spell, with Peter Odemwingie, Arnautovic and Steven Nzonzi missing the target. Arnautovic then produced a much better effort that was awkwardly blocked by Hugo Lloris.
At the other end, Eriksen sent a freekick just over the bar, but it was Stoke doing most of the attacking and their calls for a penalty were in vain as Dawson and Odemwingie clashed.
Their clearest opening came in the 84th minute as Arnautovic broke through, but the Austrian shot tamely at Lloris.
REDS TO MARCH ON
FORM GUIDE & STANDINGS: Liverpool - W W W W W (1st); Chelsea - W L W W L (2nd).
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Played 157. Liverpool - Won 69 Drew 35 Lost 53.
Gary Lim (The Expert) Liverpool Liverpool H-H 2-0 (8.50)
Ali Kasim (The Gambler) Liverpool Liverpool H-H 4-2 (30.00)
Catherine Robert (The Chick) Liverpool Chelsea D-H 2-1 (8.00)
Brian Miller (The Veteran) Liverpool Chelsea H-H 2-1 (8.00)
Richard Lenton (The Stats Man) Draw Chelsea H-D 1-1 (7.50)
LIVERPOOL V CHELSEA
Team update: A total of 27 of Pool's matches have ended with Over-2.5 goals. It was 2-1 to Chelsea last December. Sturridge is still being treated but could play a part at some stage. Hazard is set to return for Chelsea. Eto'o, Cech and Terry are out.
ODDS: 1.65 | 3.60 | 4.102.60 (-1.5) | 1.40 (+1.5) exact Tipsters 1x2 1/2 HT/FT score
Suarez favourite for PFA award
Luis Suarez is the big favourite to walk away with the PFA Player of the Year award tonight.
The Uruguayan is one of three Liverpool players nominated for the prestigious award, which will be announced at a ceremony in London.
Suarez was beaten to the award by Gareth Bale last term, but there seems little doubt the 27-year-old Liverpool striker will win this year.
Suarez has been the driving force behind Liverpool's title assault, scoring 30 goals despite missing the first six games as part of his punishment for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.
Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge are the other Liverpool players nominated.
All three are expected to make the dash from Liverpool to London for the ceremony following the Reds' clash against Chelsea. - PA Sport.