A massively intriguing match-up at Saturday lunchtime sees labouring champions Chelsea entertain a Liverpool side looking to build on their first win under new manager Jurgen Klopp.
The German’s opposite number Jose Mourinho has continued to come out fighting after yet more poor results, and members of the Chelsea squad keep insisting that they are firmly behind the 52-year-old, but the statistics speak for themselves. The club has lost more games in all competitions this time around than it did in the whole of last season, and has conceded two goals or more in each of their Premier League away games.
The most recent of those was at West Ham United last weekend, match in which they fought hard to draw level, but suffered a total loss of discipline and saw their troubles clearly exposed once again. They then saw their defence of the Capital One Cup come to an end via a penalty shootout at Stoke City on Tuesday, so the pressure coming into this encounter is as immense as ever. Victory would come as a major boost, but it will only signal the start of a revival if they can put a sequence of strong results together.
Liverpool deserved their win over Bournemouth in the Capital One Cup and their much-changed team played some nice football, but scoring goals is still a problem, with the club only having managed to find the net more than once in match on a single occasion this season – in the 3-2 success over struggling Aston Villa in September. But the performance was encouraging, with £29m summer signing Roberto Firmino impressing and Jordon Ibe looking sharp on the right wing.
Young Belgian striker Divock Origi has started all four of Klopp’s matches in charge so far and he has given plenty of effort, but it was clear from the moment fellow countryman Christian Benteke replaced him at half-time Liverpool were a much more effective and dangerous looking outfit. Benteke netted with a superb header, and will be confident of emulating West Ham’s Andy Carroll in consigning Chelsea to another dose of misery. The Reds will press throughout in what is poised to be a tight game, but the key will be to produce the necessary quality in the final third.
Nemanja Matic is available for Chelsea after serving a one-match domestic ban, and Diego Costa will hope to be fit after being forced off at Stoke. Thibaut Courtois and Branislav Ivanovic remain out.
The visitors have James Milner back from a ban and Benteke should be fine to play despite a knee problem, but Kolo Toure is the latest player to join the extensive injury list that Klopp has to contend with.
Last Meeting: With Chelsea having already clinched the title and Liverpool out of Champions League contention, the meeting in May was somewhat low key and had an end-of-season feel, but the two captains had a desire to stamp their mark on a game which finished level at 1-1. John Terry headed in for the hosts, before Steven Gerrard scored his penultimate goal for Liverpool by nodding home from a free-kick.
Played for both – Raul Meireles: The Portuguese midfielder was brought to Liverpool in the summer of 2010 by Roy Hodgson and was one of the few players to excel in the current England boss’ short reign. That form continued under Kenny Dalglish and he moved to Chelsea after a year having scored five goals in 35 games. In 32 league appearances for Chelsea in the 2011-12 season, he found the net twice.