Stamford Bridge, London
Sunday 10th May, 2015, 15:00 GMT
Are Liverpool embarrassing themselves by offering a guard of honor for the champions-elect at Stamford Bridge, the home of so many legendary tussles between the sides? Brendan Rodgers insists it is the right thing to do, and he may have a point, but even Jose Mourinho has reportedly come out with a palpable sense of discomfort at the prospect of receiving a guard of honor from a side that despises him and his club.
At risk, is also Chelsea’s blemishless record at The Bridge, and the feeling that Liverpool’s guard of honor belies a deeper desire to win a game that is essentially pointless (pardon the pun) for Chelsea.
Team News and Tactics
The Blues have achieved an incredible feat in shutting out the rest of the league by at least a 10-point gap, and 3 games to spare. Faced with striking injury woes, Jose Mourinho now has the luxury of resting his top striker Diego Costa until the next season begins. Loic Remy is ready, and was supposedly so even in the game against Manchester United too, but Mourinho could very choose not to start him either.
Chelsea’s remaining line-up will pick themselves, and you should expect a sudden display of faith by Mourinho in Cuadrado’s ability in this dead rubber encounter. Willian and Hazard will join the Colombian, at some point, in a display of attacking prowess, but it will fall to Fabregas and Matic to keep Gerrard and Henderson from dictating play in the middle of the pitch.
Also likely to get a nod is Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Chelsea’s modern-day version of the cigar-chomping Michael Ballack. At 6’4″ Ruben has the physical presence to trouble Liverpool’s back four, and the big-game prowess he shares with fellow young gun Kurt Zouma could come in handy.
The starting line-up in the midfield will be determined by how badly Chelsea want to cross the imperious 90-point barrier. The wily tactician may just surprise Liverpool by playing a striker-less formation, considering his wealth of midfield talent and the handicap he’s been saddled with on the front line.
Mourinho will play it safe at the back, opting for Cahill and Terry as his central defensive pairing. Azpilicueta and Ivanovic will then revert to playing in the usual positions, at left and right back. Cech will get the nod over Courtois, in a nod to how elite the second-choice keeper is.
Predicted Line-Up (4-3-3): Cech; Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic; Fabregas, Loftus-Cheek, Matic; Hazard, Cuadrado, Willian
Liverpool desperately need all 3 points in this encounter, along with an unlikely implosion by Manchester United in parallel. Standing in Brendan Rodgers’ way are a lackluster Reds side short on belief, and the fact he’s never beaten Chelsea in any of the past encounters.
The Reds manager will go with his best 3-man defense in Can, Skrtel and Lovren to keep Chelsea’s creative forces from wreaking havoc. Packing the midfield like he so often does, much to the chagrin of the more defensively-minded, is ironically what could unsettle a side like Chelsea that are happiest passing the ball around in the middle of the park.
Rodgers will bench Johnson, and give Gerrard a start in midfield along with Henderson to keep him company and keep the icon from taking on more than his fair share of duties tomorrow. Coutinho, Lallana and Lambert will have their task cut out for them against a mean Chelsea defense that knows how to shut down the best of offenses.
Liverpool’s biggest advantage is that Chelsea will lack the drive and ambition needed to win the game at all cost, and may be happy with a point. It is that complacency that Liverpool will need to take advantage of, if they are to come away with something.
Predicted Line Up (3-4-3): Mignolet; Can, Skrtel, Lovren; Sterling, Gerrard, Henderson, Ibe; Coutinho, Lallana, Lambert
- Mourinho has won 8 of his 10 games against Liverpool, in the Premier League
- Cesc Fabregas as provided more assists (30) than anyone else in the top 5 European leagues
- Mignolet has kept a whopping 13 clean sheets this league season, a record
- Regardless of the result, Chelsea will have led the Premier League from start to finish
Chelsea are somewhat vulnerable without a top-level striker, and will look jaded after wrapping up the league. Liverpool clearly want the win more, and will come out swinging in a last desperate bid to send Gerrard off with a memory to cherish. On balance, the Blues have the better side and are playing at home. Chelsea should win a close fought encounter with a two goals to one margin.
Predicted Score: Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool
Blast from the Past