Ballack's Anfield memories
news Tue 31 Jan 2017
As Antonio Conte's side prepare to take on Liverpool today, knowing a victory would place us 13 points clear of the Merseysiders, we caught up with a former Chelsea midfielder who knows exactly what it feels like to experience the winning feeling at Anfield.
Michael Ballack made 167 appearances for the Blues over the course of a four-year spell at Stamford Bridge, and during his time at the club he was involved in many high-profile fixtures away at Liverpool, including some pivotal victories both domestically and in Europe.
Ballack’s last appearance for us at the stadium came in May 2010, when we headed north for our penultimate game of the Premier League season top of the table and in a fantastic position.
The title was clinched with a thumping 8-0 win over Wigan Athletic the following week, but it was the result at Anfield which went a long way to ensuring Carlo Ancelotti’s side were crowned champions.
‘It was a great feeling to know that by winning that game we would pretty much seal the title, there was no better place for us to do that than at Anfield,’ Ballack recalls. ‘It’s a historical stadium and it was a great feeling. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard scored in a 2-0 win, we played really well and we were always in control of the game.
‘It was special to win the title that year because we hadn’t done it in the previous few seasons. We’d gone close but at the time Manchester United were also very strong. In Carlo we had a coach who could handle the team very well and winning the Double, which we did by beating Portsmouth in the FA Cup final, was a great achievement for us.’
There is no doubt the rivalry between the two clubs was heightened by the number of times we were drawn to play each other in the various cup competitions between 2005 and 2012, particularly the Champions League.
Ballack was part of the Chelsea team which reached the final in 2008 after knocking Liverpool out in the last four and a year later it was no surprise when we were drawn to play each other once more, this time at the quarter-final stage.
Again, the first leg was played at Anfield, and with Guus Hiddink deploying Ballack and Michael Essien slightly deeper in midfield the Blues thrived, running out 3-1 winners on a night when Branislav Ivanovic scored two headers.
‘There was always a big rivalry with Liverpool which dated back to when Jose Mourinho was Chelsea manager the first time,’ says Ballack. ‘We knew it would be a tough game there in the first leg and that, if we wanted to go through, we would need to produce a good performance up there. We did it with that away win and everything went well for us that night.
‘It’s very difficult to win at Anfield but it’s an unbelievable feeling when you do, always a special moment.’
Ballack in action during the memorable 3-1 Champions League win on Merseyside in 2009.
Ballack believes Liverpool, managed by a fellow German are beginning to look more and more like a typical Jurgen Klopp team given the way they press the opposition high and look to cause problems with quick, technically-gifted attackers.
‘Yes, they are,’ he says. ‘Firstly, you need the quality and they have that. As a coach, Klopp has experience. He won the league with Borussia Dortmund and took them to a Champions League final. Liverpool are very similar to Dortmund and I think that’s why he chose them. You can have talent, but he’s the type of coach who can take players to another level.
‘The first thing is to be well prepared mentally,’ Ballack replies, when asked what it takes to get the better of a team managed by Klopp. ‘Every player has to understand these are the type of games you can’t lose if you want to win the title, and if you can win the game it increases your chances even more.
‘It’s a long season in England and it can come down to those moments when you put out a statement against your direct opponents. It’s this type of game, away from home against a title rival, when you can really put out a signal. This Chelsea team is full of confidence and they can kill opponents in these games.’