Liverpool host Chelsea at Anfield on Tuesday night, with only a win realistically keeping the Reds’ very slim title hopes alive.
Liverpool vs. Chelsea
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 – 8pm (GMT)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
It would be an overstatement to say that Liverpool’s season is over if they lose to Chelsea, but it will certainly feel like it.
A truly disastrous January has seen Jurgen Klopp‘s side win just once in eight matches, losing ground at the top of the table and being knocked out of both domestic cup competitions.
It is a run of form that nobody saw coming before Christmas, and they must get back on track before the swell of negativity becomes unbearable.
Tuesday’s visit of Chelsea provides Liverpool with the perfect chance to respond in style, and move into February with some momentum.
A win would be such a huge result, and while their title chances would still remain slim, it would definitely be a big statement of intent.
Antonio Conte’s men have won 18 of their 22 league games this season, and three more points at Anfield would surely suggest that they are all but champions.
Liverpool will have to be at their very best to get the better of the west Londoners – a level they haven’t reached since November.
Showdowns with Chelsea are always spicy affairs, but this one feels particularly big. The Reds have to win, in what is their biggest game of 2016/17 to date.
Key players have to perform, Klopp must nail his team selection and the Anfield crowd needs to produce the kind of atmosphere it is famed for.
Last Meeting: Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
The big news for Liverpool is that Sadio Mane has returned, after his penalty miss saw Senegal knocked out of the Africa Cup on Nations on Saturday.
Whether the speedy forward is both mentally and physically ready remains to be seen, but just having him back in the squad is a huge boost.
Both Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi are still not really doing enough to warrant starting in big matches, but one may be given a chance.
Robert Firmino is fine to play, with his court case for drink driving pushed back a day, and Adam Lallana is fit.
Nathaniel Clyne could well miss out, with Trent Alexander-Arnold filling in again at right-back, while Ovie Ejaria is an long-term absentee after suffering an ankle injury against Wolves.
Chelsea have been very fortunate with injuries all season, and Conte has all of his key names available. In fact, not a single squad member is on the treatment table.
The Blues’ team virtually picks itself, with their 3-5-2 formation seeing Marcus Alonso and former Liverpool man Victor Moses thriving as wing-backs, N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic in midfield and Eden Hazard and Pedro playing off Diego Costa.
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Lost 2-1 vs. Wolves
Lost 1-0 vs. Southampton
Lost 3-2 vs. Swansea
Won 1-0 vs. Plymouth Argyle
Drew 1-1 vs. Man United
Chelsea – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 4-0 vs. Brentford
Won 2-0 vs. Hull
Won 3-0 vs. Leicester
Won 4-1 vs. Peterborough
Lost 2-0 vs. Tottenham
Klopp admitted he was unsure whether Mane would feature or not:
“He will be here tonight but I spoke to him and it is all good so far.
“He will be in tomorrow morning and we have to make a decision. We have to look in his eyes and see whatever is possible.
“I wish he hadn’t missed the penalty but he did and now he’s coming back,” said Klopp. “He’s a kind of an option for Chelsea. He’s back at least for the Hull game, that’s of course good for us.
“We have a very good player back for selection, that’s only good news.”
Unsurprisingly, the eagerly-anticipated clash is BT Sport 1 and BT Sport 4K UHD’s live game, with coverage getting underway at 7pm. Kick-off is at 8pm, at what should be a ferocious Anfield.
Our matchday live blog will be running from 7:15pm, with regular updates both before and during the game.
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