Preview: Liverpool v Chelsea 31st Jan, 8pm, Anfield

Having not won any points since earning a draw at Old Trafford at the beginning of January, Jurgen Klopps men are under pressure to start picking up points. At this moment in time they are ten points off their opponents who are in a rich vein of form and with the two teams from Manchester hot on their heels the red half of Merseyside need to start picking up points again and quick. 

Liverpool could still be with out Adam Lallana who has a knock but should be fit for a place on the bench at the very least. Nathaniel Clyne still has an injury to his rib so won’t feature . Sadi Mane, who Liverpool have missed greatly flew back on a private jet after getting knocked out with Senegal from the AFCON, may start the game. Apart from long term absentee Danny Ings Liverpool are at full strength. Philippe Coutinho should start the game after being gradually introduced since coming back from injury. Conceding 6 goals in the last 3 games is a major concern and facing a free scoring Chelsea side will not appeal in the slightest.

Chelsea have no injury concerns. Keeping clean sheets in the last 3 games and scoring 9 Conte’s men are in top form and will be more than up for the game at Anfield. Chelsea put a modest 4 past Brentford in the FA Cup at the weekend and like their hosts have no European football to worry about. Chelsea’s Italian style 3-4-3 which has proved very successful will again test Liverpool. In the corresponding fixture in September Liverpool won 1-2 at Stamford Bridge on the back of a 4-1 home win against the fallen champions Leicester City. Including both those victories  Liverpool then went on a 13 game unbeaten streak winning 11 and drawing 2 before falling at Bournemouth.

Chelsea have  only lost four times in all competitions this season, winning every game apart from a draw and losses against their hosts tomorrow, West Ham in the League Cup and to a boisterous Spurs team.

Both sides know what a winning streak feels like but only one has managed to keep one going. 

The graphic above shows how the teams may line up. Lallana should start given Liverpools current circumstances. Mane may again start the game but may be kept in reserve given his travelling over the last two days but again Klopp may feel the situation warrants him coming straight back into the side.  Matip should also come back into the team in place of Klavan. Chelsea should be unchanged unless Conte feels he needs Fabregas into the midfield at the expense of Matic.  

In the second graphic above I have shown the job Liverpools midfield have on there hands trying to look after the threat of Eden Hazard. Henderson will have to be extremely mobile when in a defensive phase of play as we know Hazard moves across the frontline in the pocket between the midfield and the defence of the opposition. Hazard is hard to pick up and to pass him off as he moves across can be tricky so Liverpool could designate a man (Henderson?) to pick him up when he does this as long as Can, Milner (the defender on that right hand side) and Wijnaldum keep the cover in the spaces vacated by Hazard. Defensively it will be a tough night for Liverpool and down the flanks with Chelsea’s full backs pushing on as they like to do with great effectiveness. 

Klopp will know avoiding defeat is a must but is also easier said than done against this Chelsea side so how brave he will be we shall see but a win against in front of the Kop would give his team a much needed boost.

My prediction: 1-2

Gareth Cooper

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