Essien starts for Chelsea

Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien returned for Chelsea against Liverpool today for the first time since injuring ankle ligaments at the beginning of last month.

The injury against West Ham forced Essien out of his country’s African Nations Cup campaign – but he was deemed sufficiently fit to replace Eidur Gudjohnsen this afternoon.

Essien’s tackle on Liverpool’s Dietmar Hamann in their Champions League clash at Stamford Bridge earlier this season earned him a two-match UEFA ban.

Liverpool, who rested a number of their players in the midweek draw with Birmingham in the Barclays Premiership, left Robbie Fowler at home and recalled Mohamed Sissoko and Jamie Carragher.

Striker Djibril Cisse was left on the bench as Rafael Benitez opted to leave the lone striking role to England international Peter Crouch.

Chelsea v Liverpool teams

Chelsea: Cech, Gallas, Ricardo Carvalho, Terry, Del Horno, Makelele, Essien, Lampard, Joe Cole, Robben, Crespo.

Subs: Cudicini, Duff, Diarra, Gudjohnsen, Huth.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Warnock, Alonso, Sissoko, Riise, Kewell, Gerrard, Crouch.

Subs: Dudek, Cisse, Luis Garcia, Morientes, Traore.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire)

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