One of the most fierce modern-day Premier League rivalries will play out its 178th rendition in the hostile arena that is Anfield, as visitors Chelsea travel to the historic city of Liverpool
Fresh off a 4938-mile round-trip to Azerbaijan, the Blues, who only landed in London in the wee hours of Thursday, take on an in-form Liverpool side looking for their 4th league win in a row.
The Reds, however, come into this match on the back of a disappointing draw against Sevilla in the Champions League in which their much-maligned defence took another beating. Jurgen Klopp, who remains unbeaten against Chelsea, reportedly had a sit-down talk with his defence, in particular with Alberto Moreno, after Sevilla came back from 3-0 down at half-time to snatch an unlikely point away from Anfield.
The visitors had time to squeeze in only one training session in between their long away trip to Baku and, well, another long away trip to Liverpool. For all the talk of the home side’s blistering attack, Chelsea have only scored one fewer than them in the league so far.
Boosted by another fantastic result against West Bromwich Albion, they will be hoping to go home with a positive result under their belt.
Team news and tactics
Emre Can is a doubt for this game, after only appearing from the bench against Sevilla. Joel Matip and Adam Lallana have shown progress in their training sessions, but this game may come a bit too soon for the duo to feature in.
The home side will feature in their regular 4-3-3 formation with the pacy trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane leading the line in attack. Jordan Henderson will sit deep in his usual ‘quarter-back’ role. Despite being taken off in the 63rd minute in the last match, Moreno could be expected to take his place back in the defence as a show of confidence from the manager.
The good news for Liverpool will be Mane’s return to goal-scoring form, having scored in midweek. The Senegalese is starting to look like his old self after a long injury layoff and adds even more teeth to an already scintillating attack. With the magic of Philippe Coutinho behind the front-three and the general calm surrounding Henderson’s play, Liverpool may just have the best front six in the league at the moment.
The letdown, though, has been their much talked-about defence, or the lack of it. With the winter transfer window looming, they ideally should see off this period and hope for reinforcements in January. The emergence, however, of Joe Gomez and Alexander Trent-Arnold just might go to show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel after all.
Probable lineup (4-3-3): Mignolet (GK); Moreno, Klavan, Lovren, Gomez; Coutinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino
After more than six weeks out, Victor Moses will most probably feature from the bench for Chelsea. In spite of the aforementioned mental fatigue issues, all of Conte’s first-team, with the exception of Michy Batshuayi (foot injury), are available for selection.
After not featuring in midweek, Alvaro Morata will be fresh and raring to go as leader of the attack in a 3-5-2 formation along with the in-form Eden Hazard at the head. If Liverpool have Coutinho to work his magic from behind the attack, the visitors also have the in-form Cesc Fabregas to unleash on the opposition. The Spaniard has started all but two league games this season and seems to have found his ‘magic’ yet again.
The return of N’Golo Kante seems to have re-energized the Chelsea midfield by giving the likes of Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko a license to attack more. The diminutive Frenchman plays a key role in linking defence and attack, and is an expert at breaking down the opposition’s moves even before they begin.
As with their hosts on the evening, the Blues’ weakness this season has been their defence. A formidable display against Manchester United was preceded by a thrashing at the hands of Roma and was again excellent against West Brom and Qarabag. It is this very erratic nature of displays that will have the Chelsea fans worried against a star-studded Liverpool attack.
Probable lineup (3-5-2): Courtois (GK), Cahill, Christensen, Azpilicueta; Alonso, Bakayoko, Kante, Fabregas, Zappacosta; Hazard, Morata
Player to watch
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The Belgian superstar started this season on a simmer after returning from injury. That, however, has now come to a boil as he is showing no signs of stopping. A breathtaking display against West Brom followed by another one against Qarabag in midweek, he has definitely found his feet again this season.
A total of 12 goals and 3 assists for club and country so far has coincided with Chelsea’s return to form after a mini-crisis before and after the international break in October. He remains a vital cog in Chelsea’s wheel and it would be no surprise if the big boys from Europe come calling for his signature in the summer yet again.
- Only Manchester City (18) have won more points on the road this season than Chelsea (15)
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 5 games against Chelsea (W2 D3) with both wins coming at Stamford Bridge
- Alvaro Morata has had a hand in 12 Chelsea goals in 11 appearances (8G 4A), the most by any Blues player in league history
- Mohamed Salah has scored 9 goals in 12 matches for the Reds; he managed 2 in 13 in an entire season for the Blues
- The last time Liverpool failed to score against Chelsea was when the infamous Steven Gerrard ‘slip’ happened; a 2-0 victory back in April 2014
1. Liverpool to win @2.15
2. Both Teams to Score – NO @2.25
1. Liverpool to win to nil @ 4.00
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
It should, in all probability, be a much entertaining affair given both teams’ dynamic attacks and a penchant for counter-attacking play. We would expect Jurgen Klopp to continue his good record against Chelsea with a tighter defensive display than the one against Sevilla.
The visitors will be happy to take home a point, which will stand them in good stead for a relatively easy run of fixtures in the league from now to the beginning of next year. With Champions League round-of-16 qualification already taken care of, this could be their last big test of the year.