ZENDEN: A SPECIAL GAME
Boudewijn Zenden will be a keen spectator when two of his former clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool, go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon.
The former Dutch international, who also represented the likes of Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven during an illustrious career, moved to Stamford Bridge from the Camp Nou back in 2001 and enjoyed a three-year spell in west London before moving to Middlesbrough in 2004.
It's been a decent start to the current campaign for the Blues, with our Premier League title assault in good shape, and our hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League resting in our own hands.
Zenden has enjoyed watching Roberto Di Matteo's side in action, and as somebody who was renowned for his creativity in wide areas, he has been particularly impressed with the supporting attacking trio of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar.
'I've seen quite a bit and it's been a good start,' he tells the club's official website.'Chelsea were top of the table until the draw at Swansea, which has made a shift in the top few places. There's still a long way to go but it's good to be up there and it keeps the spirits up.
'In terms of the football, it's certainly been exciting. The team score a lot of goals but because they like to attack, it means that they've also conceded a few as well, and that's something which is slightly different from previous years.
'Mata is a familiar face and Hazard I know from his time in France and with the national team, he's a quality player. Oscar is a new face, and he's making rapid progress. It seems as if he doesn't need much time to adapt to the new way of playing and it's exciting to see.
'They are all players who like to create opportunities for other players, and they aren't selfish, so it's enjoyable to watch.'
The rivalry between Chelsea and Liverpool has been an intense one since a string of cup clashes brought the two clubs together on a regular basis from 2005 onwards, and it certainly wasn't helped by the transfer of Fernando Torres back in 2011.
Now under the stewardship of former Chelsea reserve manager Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool boast an impressive recent record at Stamford Bridge, condemning us to two defeats in the space of a few weeks last season - in the league and Carling Cup - although the Blues had the last laugh when we came out on top in the FA Cup final back in May.
Zenden is anticipating another tight encounter, and cites a certain Uruguayan as the player Chelsea will need to keep tabs on if we are to secure all three points.
'It's always a special game when Chelsea play Liverpool and the one on Sunday will be no different,' he explains. 'The league table shows Chelsea near the top and Liverpool further adrift, but in games such as this the table doesn't count.
'You would say that Liverpool are more desperate for the result due to their current position, and obviously the pressure is mounting on Brendan Rodgers.
'He's done well at his previous clubs and likes to play attractive football, but at the top level you don't get much time, people want results quickly.
'On current form you would probably come to the conclusion that Chelsea are expected to win the game, especially with home advantage, but in football you never know how a game is going to evolve or whether a goal or a sending off will influence the outcome.
'Luis Suarez is always a handful. There's been a lot of talk about the way he plays, but the majority of teams would rather be playing alongside him than against him.'
As he looked back on his time at the club, Zenden recalled fondly a memorable introduction to the Stamford Bridge faithful against Newcastle United on the opening day of the 2001/02 season, but rather than focus on a stunning individual display and a debut goal, the match sticks in his mind for a couple of other reasons.
'I'd obviously signed for Chelsea, but there were a lot of rumours that I'd turned down Newcastle,' he says. 'I didn't even get into negotiations with them at any point, and then when the fixtures came out we had to face them on the opening day. I remember the away fans giving me some stick, and that's why it was even nicer for me to score the goal.
'The other thing was that I scored a goal and we drew 1-1, but at Barcelona drawing a game is a big issue, so when it came to leaving the stadium to go to my car, I was worried about getting through the angry crowds, but the supporters were brilliant and congratulated me on my performance and wished me luck for the next game. It was all very positive and completely different to what I'd been used to.'
Another player making his Chelsea debut on that sunny August afternoon was a midfielder named Frank Lampard, and while few could have foreseen what he would go on to achieve over the course of the ensuing 11 years, Zenden believes he deserves all the plaudits that come his way.
'He's achieved so much for the club and nobody could have predicted the impact he would make at the time,' acknowledged Zenden. 'He's third in the club's all-time goalscoring list which, for a midfielder, is a phenomenal achievement. I know he always had the urge to get into the box and he's a very influential player.
'One of the other records he held was for consecutive appearances, which is amazing when you consider how physical the Premier League is. You see how some players suffer with injuries because of that, and for him to play so many matches one after the other at the highest level is fantastic.'
Zenden's three-year spell in west London was a period mixed with highs and lows, but as the Dutchman reflected on his Blues career, he admits it was an enjoyable period.
'It was good to score some important goals and be part of a strong team,' says the 36-year-old. 'In my first season I suffered a bad injury against Tottenham Hotspur in the Carling Cup, which kept me out for around four months.
'One of the first matches when I came back was the FA Cup final against Arsenal, which we lost, and while it's always nice to reach a final, there's no worse feeling than losing one.
'I was also there when the transition begun, when Roman Abramovich came in, and things were taken to the next level.
'There comes a time, though, as a player, when it's clear you have to move on, which is what happened, but I have only fond memories from my time at Chelsea.'