Bayern or bust for Chelsea as Liverpool avenge FA Cup defeat
After defeat at Anfield, Chelsea must win the Champions League to play in Europe next year
Liverpool 4 Chelsea 1. It's Bayern or the Bullet for Roberto Di Matteo (pictured) after Chelsea's hopes of a top four finish in the Premier League were ended at Anfield.
The Reds gained a measure of revenge for their FA Cup Final defeat by Chelsea at the weekend with a 4-1 victory that leaves the Londoners in sixth spot.
That means that unless Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in the final of the Champions League on Saturday week, the Blues will miss out on next season's competition, and Di Matteo will almost certainly be given the boot by club owner Roman Abramovich at the end of the season.
Since taking over as caretaker boss at the Bridge following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas in March, Di Matteo has done much to turn around the club's fortunes, but they're still destined for their lowest league position for a decade.
Asked why he had chosen a second string for such an important game, changing eight of the side that had beaten Liverpool in the cup final, Di Matteo replied: "I thought by putting out a team that was fresh and energetic, physically and mentally, it would give us a better chance."
With no Lampard, Drogba, Cole, Cech or Mata, Chelsea lacked the spine of their side and it showed against a Liverpool team playing for nothing but pride.
First-half strikes from Jordan Henderson and Daniel Agger, plus an own goal from Michael Essien, gave the Reds a 3-0 lead at the break, though it would have been four had Stewart Downing not missed a penalty.
Ramires scored for the Blues five minutes into the second period but any hopes of a fightback were snuffed out ten minutes later when Jonjo Shelvey fired home from 35 yards.
Other than an ugly incident involving the arm of Luis Suarez and the face of Branislav Ivanovic, which could result in retrospective action by the Football Association, Liverpool put on a good show for the Kop. The win moves them up into eighth spot and gives them the chance of overtaking Everton on the final day of the season.
Chelsea's last game of the season, at home to Blackburn, will be an anti-climax although at least Di Matteo is under no pressure to field a full-strength line-up six days ahead of what will be the most important match of his football career.
"We've played with these players all season and they've carried us so far," he said in defending the club's league position. "We have been using the strength that we have in the squad to be able to be here but we've lost many points during the whole season and you can't just look at tonight.
"We've played every three days over eight weeks and we've had to utilise the strength in the squad to reach the finals and to be as close as we were with two games left."