Fresh from Champions League action, Chelsea head to Anfield for Saturday evening Premier League action. Liverpool had their own Champions League match this week, but to call them fresh after that is inaccurate.
The hosts this Saturday were 3-0 up at Sevilla at half-time on Tuesday. They were on course for a fantastic result. The second half was a disaster, however, as Liverpool’s now trademark defensive chaos cost them three goals. An eventual draw was by no means a disaster if offered before kick-off, but letting a three goal slip will have hurt. Hurt badly.
Chelsea were able to take their feet off the gas away in Azerbaijan. Good refereeing fortune made it a walkover for Antonio Conte’s Blues, allowing the Italian to rest some key men in the second half. The match was played nearly 24 hours later than Liverpool’s, though, and with a six-hour flight after it, which sets Chelsea at a slight disadvantage with recuperation.
Three points currently separates the two teams in the league, with Chelsea third and Liverpool fifth. Manchester City’s dominance domestically – and their seemingly never-ending win streak – makes the title out of reach for Conte and Jurgen Klopp. They are left tussling for a couple of top four spots, which only exaggerates the importance of the top six matchups.
Liverpool’s defence is the story ahead of this match. It has – again – cost them points, and now faces a Chelsea side who tore West Bromwich Albion apart last weekend. Eden Hazard is in full flow, Alvaro Morata fully fit and Cesc Fabregas is pulling the strings from deep. Confidence in that back four must be at rock bottom, it will be fascinating to see how they recover from the gutting defeat in Seville.
The hosts have the worst expected goals against of the top six teams at 14.89 (per understat.com). Their expected goals for, however, is second only to Manchester City. It’s typical Liverpool, and typical Klopp, and, as ever, makes over 2.5 goals in the match a good bet at 8/11.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have vastly overperformed their expected goals. In part, this is because of Morata’s heading skill, but their defence has shown fallibility that was rarely seen last term. Their vulnerability at the back makes Liverpool’s flying front four of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho yet more dangerous.
Salah will be particularly keen to perform against his former club. The Egyptian has arguably been the best player in the league thus far, making his 9/2 on him to score the opening goal a very good price.
With both teams favouring quick attacking transitions, this should be a real end-to-end affair. The midfielders will be charged with slowing the rapid opposition attacks, which could force some rather clumsy challenges.
Hazard will be given a free role by Chelsea, and could find space behind the Liverpool midfield. As a result, I think 5/2 on Emre Can to pick up his fourth Premier League booking of the season is a solid price.
Chelsea travel to Merseyside on a four match Premier League winning streak, while Liverpool have finished victorious in their last three. The two midweek results should put Chelsea in the ascendency, but the extra day of rest and home advantage means I’m sitting on the fence this one. Could well be a thriller, though.
TIP: Match to finish 2-2 @ 11/1
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*