April 27, 2014; 14:05 GMT
At the start of the year 2014, Liverpool were well on their way towards fighting for a spot in the Top 4. Question marks remained, however, of the Reds’ ability to defeat 5 of the Top 6 teams at home, and understandably so – as the Reds had similarly failed in defeating any team in the Top 6 until March.
Liverpool have since defeated Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, not to forget Manchester United at Old Trafford, on their way to a winning run of 11 games on the bounce. Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool host now Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea at Anfield in what is their last big test in their mission to win a first Premier League title, and a first title win since 1990. No titles will be won on Sunday, but were Liverpool to win, they will surely put Chelsea out of the title race.
Team News and Tactics
Experience counts for a lot in a title race, but for those teams that are new to winning league titles, there is no substitute for actually being in one. Fortunately for Liverpool, the likes of Luis Suarez, Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Sturridge have all been part of teams that have won domestic league titles, Kolo Toure has won Premier League trophies with two different teams. Given the unlikely nature of Liverpool’s title charge, any experience is valuable experience.
Not having to juggle a squad for the better part of the season for more than one tournament has meant that a core group of 12-15 players has played never single game – and Chelsea’s visit to Anfield will be no different. Daniel Sturridge is the only doubtful starter, with Brendan Rodgers not ruling him out of making an appearance, even if it is off the bench. Were Sturridge to not be fit for Chelsea’s visit to Anfield, Jordan Henderson’s suspension means that Lucas and Joe Allen are once again likely to accompany Steven Gerrard in central midfield. Mamadou Sakho should be able to retain his place in central defence ahead of Daniel Agger, while the rest of the playing squad should select itself.
Probable lineup (4-3-3): Mignolet (GK); Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan; Lucas, Gerrard, Allen; Sterling, Suarez, Coutinho
Manuel Pellegrini and Manchester City may not like it, but Jose Mourinho’s claims that he may have field a weakened playing squad against Liverpool at Anfield could give the Reds a clearer path to the Premier League title. Thanks to their losses at Aston Villa, at Crystal Palace and at home, shockingly, to Sunderland, Chelsea are not 5 points behind Liverpool; defeat at Anfield mathematically puts them out of the title race.
Besides the burden of their impending second leg of their Champions League semi-final at home to Atletico Madrid, Chelsea have injuries and suspensions to worry about. Ramires is now suspended for the rest of the season, while Eden Hazard will not return to full fitness in time for Sunday. David Luiz’s habit of pushing opposing players on to his own defenders has cost Chelsea, with Petr Cech and John Terry both hobbling off on Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final at Madrid. Frank Lampard will not play the second leg of the semi-final due to suspension, while Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are both cup-tied having played in Europe this season. Hence, all the three of them could all make it for Chelsea’s trip to Anfield Road.
As is the general tendency at away games against anything more than half-decent opposition, Jose Mourinho is likely to field a defensive eleven with the hope of using pace on the counter to hurt Liverpool. Not many thought it would work at Manchester City, so don’t rule out it working at Liverpool either.
Probable lineup (4-4-2): Schwarzer (GK); Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole; Matic, Salah, Lampard, Mikel, Schurrle; Ba
- Liverpool have scored at least 2 goals in their last 14 games at home in the Premier League.
- The last team to defeat Liverpool in the Premier League was Chelsea, on December 28.
- With 30 goals in the season, Luis Suarez is now one goal short of the record for highest number of goals scored by any player in the league, currently held by Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Player to watch
Luis Suarez (Liverpool FC)
A little more than one year to this day, Liverpool’s Uruguayan talisman got himself into the biggest controversy of his professional career, as Liverpool legend Graeme Souness famously said that he was on a last chance saloon. In 12 months, Suarez has gone from nearly leaving Liverpool to within 3 games of spearheading one of the most remarkable title victories in Premier League history. Branislav Ivanovic may think of getting extra protection for his arm, but if the run of play goes according to the form book, Suarez’s snacking habits will be the least of his worries.
Liverpool 3-1 Chelsea
Just as in their wins over other top teams in the Premier League at Anfield in 2014, Liverpool have started games very quickly and blown away their opposition in the first half. With Jose Mourinho apparently planning to put out his second choice players on the field, there may be a sense that the Premier League title may not be as big a priority as the Champions League. Momentum is with Liverpool’s favour, and the Reds should be able to do well enough to make it 12 wins in a row.