Chelsea host Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in a Premier League clash between two teams who will have different outlooks on the season, despite both fighting for a top four spot with just two league games remaining.
Chelsea won’t look back on the season with much fondness, however there’s still an FA Cup final and a top four place to play for in the next couple of weeks which could put a totally different spin on things. Performances have been inconsistent with squad harmony and morale looking diminished compared to last season.
It’s Liverpool who will have the better outlook on the season no matter what happens from now on in, their unexpected Champions league journey has seen them reach the final in Kiev. Performances in the league since the start of 2018 have also been very good, losing just two games away to Swansea City and Manchester United.
Form tends to go out of the window when a classic rivalry like Liverpool vs Chelsea comes around, especially with a top four place on the line. A Liverpool win would confirm their top four place, whilst a Chelsea win would heap the pressure on Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool ahead of the final round of fixtures next weekend.
Here’s a rundown of Sunday’s clash:
Liverpool head into the clash in a better run of form than Chelsea. Two draws in their last two Premier League games against West Brom and Stoke City have seen their league momentum slow down, it’s clear their priorities have been elsewhere with the Champions League semi-finals sandwiching those two league games.
However, on the back of reaching a Champions League final on Wednesday against Roma, confidence will be sky high and The Reds will believe they can beat anyone – even if they are running on tired legs.
On the other hand, Chelsea’s form has stabilised recently, winning their last four games in all competitions. This comes after a torrid start to 2018, having lost seven games in all competitions with the worst coming at the hands of a 4-1 defeat to Watford and a 0-3 home loss to Bournemouth.
The Stamford Bridge faithful will be hoping a corner has been turned, defensive improvements have been made although a lack of goals is still a concern. With an FA Cup final on the horizon the Chelsea squad will be confident and ready to battle for a Wembley starting spot.
The previous encounter between these two sides ended in a 1-1 draw at Anfield in November. Neither side can take much confidence from that game, it was a drab game that failed to spark into any kind of fluidity.
Much of the pre-match discussion was focused on Jurgen Klopp’s team selection after the German rotated a number of key players. That didn’t stop Liverpool controlling the majority of the game and eventually getting the lead through Mohamed Salah. Cesc Fabregas was substituted on with 15 minutes left which gave Chelsea a foothold in the middle of the pitch, eventually leading to a late Willian equaliser.
There are three key battles that could potentially decide this huge game, all of which are individual match-ups. However with Liverpool’s front three being so deadly this season, it’s hard to look past how Chelsea are going to try and stop them, something not many teams have done this season. Salah, Firmino and Mane have scored bag fulls of goals all season long, it’s a combination which has the perfect balance and blend which has the ability to hurt any opposition defence and capitalise on any minor mistake.
Chelsea have deployed a three at the back system for a long time now and it’s something they are very well accustomed to, especially after winning the Premier League title last season with it. Liverpool’s front three is always narrow and close together, which means it’ll more than likely be three on three on many occasions.That’s a recipe for disaster against this front three, the key battle will be to see how Chelsea deal with Liverpool’s attack.
Will they be brave and leave three on three? Or go for a more pragmatic approach, sit deeper and get bodies around the front three to suffocate any space in behind for the pace of Mane and Salah, similar to what Manchester United done so well against The Reds at Old Trafford.
Chelsea head into the game with a relatively clean bill of health compared to Liverpool, with only David Luiz (knee) and Ethan Ampadu (ankle) ruled out. On the other hand, Liverpool are somewhat down to the bare bones of the squad in the business end of the season.
Joel Matip (thigh), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Emre Can (back) will be missing. The fitness of Joe Gomez and Adam Lallana is uncertain, both are likely to make the bench at least after Lallana returned to training earlier on in the week, whilst Gomez is expected to make a return after missing the Roma game due to an ankle knock.
Whilst Chelsea should be the fresher of the two sides, it’s hard to go against Liverpool and mainly that front three. Chelsea will have to do very well to keep them quiet all game, whereas Chelsea lack the cutting edge to capitalise on the control of the game that they will enjoy. Liverpool only need one chance and they will punish The Blues.
We’re in for an even game, and although Chelsea will control possession with Fabregas pulling the strings. Liverpool’s world-class trio should be enough to see them grab the three points and secure their Champions League spot for next season
Score prediction: Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool