Liverpool will look to arrest an alarming slide in form when they host Premier League leaders Chelsea at Anfield on Tuesday night.
After a nightmare week, and a poor January overall, the Reds have one last chance to turn things around before February, but face an almighty task under the lights.
Match: Liverpool vs Chelsea
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Date: Tuesday 31st January
Time: 20:00 BST
Liverpool’s performances and results since the turn of the year have been woeful, to say the least. Looking a shadow of the team that dazzled in the first half of the season, they’ve won just one game in the last eight.
That win came in an FA Cup replay away at Plymouth, leaving the Reds without a league win in 2016. They drew away at Sunderland and Manchester United, before losing their first home game in a year against relegation-threatened Swansea City just over a week ago.
Defeat against the Swans triggered the collapse of fortress Anfield, as Jürgen Klopp’s men were beaten by Southampton in the EFL Cup on Wednesday at home, knocked out of both that competition and then the FA Cup on Saturday, Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers emerging from L4 with a 2-1 win.
Chelsea’s form is enough to send shivers through the spine of Liverpool players. Having had their staggering 13 game league winning streak ended by Tottenham Hotspur, they’ve gone on to win the next four, the latest victory a 4-0 hammering of Brentford in the FA Cup.
All in all, the Blues have won 17 of their last 19 games, and rock up to Anfield top of the league, 10 points ahead of the fourth placed Reds. The Dry January seems to have pushed Liverpool well out of title contention, and you’d suggest that it’ll be all but over without victory on Tuesday.
Liverpool’s downturn in fortunes clearly coincided with Sadio Mane jetting off to AFCON, and whilst whether or not he should have been better replaced is another matter, he will likely be back for Tuesday’s game after missing a penalty which saw Senegal knocked out at the quarter final stage.
Theoretically, Klopp could field his favourite trio of Mane-Coutinho-Firmino for the first time in over two months, however that’s unlikely with Adam Lallana likely to get the nod in front-three with Mane settling for a place on the bench.
After wholesale changes were made vs Wolves the defence will have a more familiar look to it, with Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and James Milner all expected to return. Nathaniel Clyne is a doubt, meaning Trent Alexander-Arnold may have the unenviable task of trying to shackle Eden Hazard.
Chelsea also rested a whole host of players for their FA Cup tie this weekend, meaning Antonio Conte has a fairly fresh side to select. The Blues are in the luxurious position of not having a single first team player sidelined currently, meaning they’ll be full strength for the game.
Liverpool Predicted XI: Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho.
Chelsea Predicted XI: Courtois; Cahill, Azpilicueta, Luiz; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Hazard, Costa, Pedro
WHEN THEY LAST MET
Only three teams have beaten Chelsea in the league this season and they’re the three teams directly below them, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool. The Reds were impressive at Stamford Bridge in September, going ahead through Dejan Lovren before Jordan Henderson’s Goal of the Season contender made it two, proving to be the winner after a Diego Costa goal dragged Chelsea back into it.
- Liverpool haven’t lost four consecutive home games since 1923
- Should Liverpool lose on Tuesday, the gap to top-spot will have more than doubled within a month
- Chelsea have scored four less goals than Liverpool in the league so far, but conceded 12 less.
- Liverpool haven’t lost to any side in the top 10 so far this season.
PREDICTION: LIVERPOOL 1-1 CHELSEA
Despite Liverpool’s impressive record against the top teams so far this season, I’m a little cautious about this one (not only because I went for Liverpool 3-0 Swansea last time!).
Chelsea will likely come to Anfield not being too concerned about the idea of a draw, making them even harder to break down, although the past week should have given the Reds enough of a kick up the backside to prompt them into some reaction, making a point a very real possibility.