Chelsea will look to guarantee their qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League when they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on Wednesday.
Chelsea are just one step away from securing their place in the top-four this season, thus securing qualification for the next edition of the UEFA Champions League. They are currently third in the league table and have a slender one-point lead over Leicester City and Manchester United, meaning a win could be enough to seal a top-four finish.
However, they face a gigantic task of facing Premier League champions Liverpool at Anfield, in their next Premier League fixture on Wednesday. The Blues will look to draw inspiration from their 3-0 FA Cup victory over Manchester United on the weekend but will be wary of their opponent’s strength at home.
Liverpool, in fairness, though, have not really been up to the mark since the restart. The Reds notably lost to clubs like Arsenal and Manchester City and were held by Burnley. As a result, they cannot reach the 100 point milestone, especially having lost 2-0 to Gunners in their last game.
Nevertheless, Jurgen Klopp’s men still have a reasonable chance of breaking Manchester City’s record of winning the league title by a 19 point margin during the 2017/18 campaign. They are currently leading the table by 15 points with a game in hand, meaning they must win this game against Chelsea in order to keep their chances alive prior to the final gameweek.
And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look both the teams ahead of this crucial top of the table Premier League fixture at Anfield this midweek.
Tactics & Team News
James Milner should return to full fitness against Chelsea, having failed to feature in the last game. But, coach Klopp is likely to continue missing out on the services of Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip.
Aside from Virgil van Dijk and Alisson’s hideous errors against Arsenal, Liverpool didn’t exactly have any complaints regarding their defensive performance. Hence, Klopp should retain the back-four consisting of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, van Dijk and Andrew Robertson.
These four players will cover Alisson in goal, although Dejan Lovren is a potential alternative to Gomez at centre-back, while Neco Williams is also pushing for a place in the starting lineup.
In midfield, we can expect Naby Keita to be a guaranteed starter, having made an instant impact against Arsenal. He could come into the side, at the expense of the ineffective Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain while Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum are pretty much-guaranteed starters.
Curtis Jones may, however, feature as a second-half substitute or even as a starter, replacing Wijnaldum in the first-team eleven.
Roberto Firmino is usually preferred to Divock Origi against opponents like Chelsea so despite his stale performance last week, the Brazilian should hope for a place in the starting lineup. He should form the Liverpool attack alongside the ever-present figures of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Frank Lampard is set to face a tough decision of whether to revert to a 4-3-3 or not against Liverpool. We expect the English to persist with the 3-4-3 formation he used in the win over Manchester United in the last game as it offers him better balance in defence.
That means Cesar Azpilicueta could once again be deployed in the additional centre-back slot, alongside Antonio Rudiger and Kurt Zouma. The experience of these three individuals could be key in restraining the Liverpool trio of Salah, Firmino and Mane.
In midfield, Chelsea are missing out on the services of both N’Golo Kante and Billy Gilmour due to injuries. That means Jorginho should once again start as the holding midfielder, alongside the much more offensive-natured Mateo Kovacic, who impressed in the win over Man United.
Reece James and Marcos Alonso are pretty much guaranteed starts in the wing-back roles, with these two individuals likely to provide the width going forward.
And finally, in the attack, there is a chance that Christian Pulisic may return to the side after being rested in the win over Manchester United. He should replace Mason Mount at left-wing, with Willian starting on the opposite flank and Olivier Giroud spearheading the Chelsea attack, ahead of Tammy Abraham.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Zouma; James, Kovacic, Jorginho, Alonso; Willian, Giroud, Pulisic
- Liverpool can become the third Premier League club, after Arsenal and Blackburn, to do the Premier League double over Chelsea on four occasions.
- A Liverpool victory would equal the best Premier League home record for a season of 18 wins and a draw. It was previously set by Chelsea (2005-06), Manchester United (2010-11) and Manchester City (2011-12).
- Roberto Firmino has gone 19 league appearances without a goal at Anfield since scoring in a 2-1 win against Tottenham on 31 March 2019. The Brazilian has since had 53 unsuccessful attempts on goal.
- Chelsea have kept only one clean sheet in 18 Premier League away matches this season, their worst return in the top flight since 1991.
- The Blues have conceded 49 goals in the Premier League, the most of any team in the top half of the table.
Player to Watch
Giroud is arguably the most in-form player heading into this encounter this week. The Frenchman has scored five goals in six league and cup starts since football’s resumption and has shown signs of his former self, particularly with his finishing.
What makes Giroud a threat for the Liverpool defence is that Chelsea will primarily look to operate on the counter, where the pace and crossing prowess of players like Willian and Pulisic should provide a lot of aerial supply for the striker, whose 1.93m frame is certainly hard to deal with.
Therefore, Liverpool must find a way to properly isolate Giroud this week if they are to have any hopes to containing the Chelsea attack.
Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea
It is needless to say that Klopp will have his guard up following a disastrous defeat to Arsenal in the last game. Fortunately for him, Chelsea are not as tactically versatile as Mikel Arteta’s men, meaning their emphasis on attacking the opposition will not be deterred, thus allowing the Reds to create more chances than they did against the Gunners. We expect a 2-0 win for the home side in this one.