Who would have thought we’d be describing the meeting of Liverpool and Chelsea at this stage of the season as a mid-table battle but with Chelsea struggling to score goals and Liverpool looking wide open at the back at times this season, that is exactly where these two teams find themselves ahead of the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday (12.30, BT Sport).
An FA Cup replay win away to Wolves on Tuesday by a Liverpool second string is unlikely to have lifted morale too highly with the Reds needing a Harvey Elliott wonderstrike to squeeze past a Wolves side who dominated much of the play without ever really threatening Caoimhin Kelleher‘s goal. However, that FA Cup tie may actually have been ideal preparation for this Premier League clash at Anfield as Saturday’s opponents Chelsea have often shown glimpses of real quality under Graham Potter without carrying a real cutting edge in the final third.
The lack of a genuine number nine is really holding Potter’s project back at Chelsea, although Kai Havertz did manage to net the winner in the Blues 1-0 win at home against Crystal Palace last weekend. Brighton and Brentford have both given teams facing Liverpool the blueprint in how to expose Jugen Klopp‘s side with raw pace in behind something a fragile Liverpool have struggled to deal with in recent weeks.
Sadly, Chelsea’s treatment room is currently full of players who might have been ideal for this assignment with Raheem Sterling, Ben Chillwell, Christian Pulisic, Reece James, and Armando Broja just some of the Blues stars currently out of action. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is clearly not the force of old and will do well to play again under Potter after his appalling effort from the bench against Manchester City while new signing Joao Felix is suspended after his red card on debut. New £100 million signing Mykhailo Mudryk is likely to start on the bench and is something of an unknown quantity. That leaves me looking towards Hakim Ziyech as the one who may be able to carry the fight to Liverpool even if the Moroccan has never replicated his international form at club level since his move to Stamford Bridge. Ziyech is 4/1 to score anytime while this is a DOUBLE THE ODDS First Goalscorer game with Bar One Racing.
As for the home side, Virgil van Dijk continues to leave a gaping hole in the Liverpool defence as a result of his injury absence but up front, Darwin Nunez could return and potentially make up a front three also containing Mo Salah and Cody Gakpo. The next goal Liverpool concede will be their 26th of the season in the Premier League, they only conceded that many in the entirety of last season so it’s not too hard to figure out where the Merseysiders troubles lie. At the other end of the pitch, Liverpool had scored at least once in their last six competitive matches prior to the Brighton horror show so Jurgen Klopp should be confident of his side finding the back of the net on Saturday given the visitors have recorded just one clean sheet in their last five games.
In a true testament as to how fortunes can swing so quickly in this sport, this time last year these two were on a collision course in the EFL Cup final, which the Reds won on penalties, while just a few months later, Liverpool repeated that feat by beating the Blues on spot kicks in the FA Cup final. Counting those two games at Wembley as 90 minute draws, the last four H2H encounters have now ended all square. With the current form of these two sides, we could be looking at another very tight encounter.
VERDICT: DRAW (14/5).
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