8th November, 2014, 13.45 GMT
The last time Liverpool took on Chelsea at Anfield, the visitors halted the Reds’ title challenge. Everyone thought that the Merseysiders were on their way to win the Premier League, especially after the 3-2 win over Manchester City earlier. Jose Mourinho, however, successfully dealt with the hosts, whose attacking prowess had given numerous teams a headache. Added to that was the Steven Gerrard slip. It feels a little too convenient to blame the title loss just on that one unfortunate moment, but this debate can see no end. Whatever it was, that slip did end up being a big part of Liverpool’s previous season.
The two sides take on each other in different scenarios now. Chelsea are comfortably seated on top of the table, twelve points ahead of seventh placed Liverpool. The Blues are unbeaten in the league, and their opponents just can’t find a way to win.
Team News, Tactical Brief and Predicted Line-ups
Liverpool go into this game on the back of a 1-0 away loss to Real Madrid. Brendan Rodgers fielded a strange side at the Bernabeu with seven regulars dropped to the bench. With the likes of Lucas, Emre Can, Kolo Toure involved, it looked like Rodgers had put on a team for a Capital One Cup. His decision to do the same paid off as the Reds impressed with their gritty defending and perseverance shown in the game. But the fact that regulars like Gerrard, Sterling and Henderson were not started has now put extra pressure on Rodgers to put on an impressive performance against Mourinho’s men.
The good game by the squad players also gives Rodgers a selection headache. Should he put the players who played very well against the defending European champions, or should he instead get the regulars back to the starting 11?
Simon Mignolet finally had a good game between the sticks for Liverpool. The Belgian made some superb saves (8) and ensured that the game stayed within Liverpool’s reach. The one goal that did manage to be scored was from a cross and a shot that were always going to go inside. Javier Manquillo once again showed that he is Liverpool’s smartest investment of the summer. The 20 year old on-loan full back was composed defensively and didn’t get intimidated against Ronaldo and Marcelo. Martin Skrtel captained the Reds and would be played against Chelsea, mainly because he has been Liverpool’s best centre back this season. Kolo Toure, who has had some shocking moments at the back, in a Liverpool jersey, was outstanding against Real Madrid. He won 100% of his tackles, made 6 clearances 7 blocks and 1 interception. Based on this performance itself, he should start the game against Chelsea. However, Rodgers might want to field Lovren as Toure has made some laughable mistakes in the past and Rodgers can’t repeat the same against Chelsea. Alberto Moreno would keep his spot as the left-back. The back-four has to be as resilient against Chelsea as they were against Real Madrid because the likes of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard are just as capable of creating damage as Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Lucas showed why he is a better choice for the Reds as the sole defensive midfielder instead of Steven Gerrard, who is not doing well in this spot this season. He warrants a start against the league-leaders at the back of a strong performance. Liverpool also need the midfield to be incredibly strong against the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Oscas, Nemanja Matic and Eden Hazard. Henderson would get in the midfield while one of Joe Allen or Emre Can would support him alongside.
Raheem Sterling would also be brought back into the team. The 19 year old’s form has dipped after the ‘tired’ controversy between club and country. But Sterling is Liverpool’s only attacking spark and the Reds need him to get firing again- this is the perfect match to find his unstoppable form. Sterling operating centrally would be better for Liverpool as the player doesn’t look as effective on the wings anymore. Daniel Sturridge should only be back after the international break, which is a huge blow for the Reds as the ex-Chelsea man could have been a huge threat for his former employees. Fabio Borini was outstanding in his work rate, and also had a good game against Swansea in the League Cup. He should start the game alongside Mario Balotelli. But Brendan Rodgers looks skeptical about fielding Borini in league games and might persist on playing Balotelli alone up-front, even though this hasn’t worked at all. In that case one of Philippe Coutinho or Adam Lallana will get in the side.
Probable Starting Line-Up (4-3-3): Mignolet; Manquillo, Skrtel, Toure, Moreno; Gerrard, Henderson, Can; Sterling, Balotelli, Coutinho
Chelsea come into this game at the back of a draw against Malibor. In the league, they won over QPR narrowly last before previously drawing to Manchester United. The Blues are not in the scintillating form they were in at the beginning of the season, but there is not a stronger team in the Premier League at the moment.
Chelsea are extremely prolific in front of goal and have scored double the amount than their opponents- 26. Diego Costa would start the game, but the will he won’t he question before every game is becoming a regular affair now. But in all probability, the man Liverpool almost signed two years back and looks is in amazing touch in front of goal will start the game instead of coming on later on. He is teeing up nicely with fellow summer arrival Cesc Fabregas.
Chelsea also have other sources of creativity in attack in the form of Oscar, who scored an amazing goal against QPR a few days back; Willian and last season’s PFA Young Player of the Year Eden Hazard. Andrea Schurrle is likely to be on the bench.
Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta will return to the side. Cahill was on the bench against Malibor and Azpilicueta is now available after serving a three-match ban following his sending off against Crystal Palace and he is expected to replace Filipe Luis at left-back.
Chelsea should look to shut out Raheem Sterling, who in any case, has been looking very jaded in the recent past. If Sterling is kept away from action, virtually all of Liverpool’s attacking threat goes away. Young Dummett of Newcastle did an incredible job of ensuring Sterling is not a problem and his uninvolvement was key to Liverpool looking so lacklustre in the game. Jordan Henderson is another player who Nemanja Matic should deal with. If he is also kept at bay, the urgency of passes from midfield to attack dies out and the tempo of the game from Liverpool becomes very slow.
Probable Line-Up (4-3-2-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Oscar, Willian, Hazard; Costa.
- They have two wins from their last seven league games.
- Brendan Rodgers’ side have six points fewer than at this stage last season.
- Mario Balotelli has gone 689 minutes since his last goal in the Premier League.
- The Blues are unbeaten in their last 13 Premier League games (W10, D3).
Player to watch out for
Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)
The ex-Arsenal man has been spectacular for Chelsea ever since his arrival and Jose Mourinho has used the man in a clever double midfield pivot alongside Nemanja Matic, who has also been extremely impressive since his winter arrival from Benfica. Fabregas creates a lot of threat from the midfield and dictates the tempo of the game nicely. His link-ups with the likes of Costa, Hazard and other Chelsea attackers have been delightful and he would again like to leave a mark in the game.
Liverpool 0 Chelsea 2
Liverpool need the win and have a tendency to step up in big games. However, the Reds have just not able to find the back of the net. There is not enough creativity in the final third and the Liverpool players are just not penetrating in the opposition’s box. Against the mean Chelsea defence, and in the absence of Daniel Sturridge, we can expect no different for Liverpool’s attack. Expect Chelsea to score a couple and then rest comfortably.