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10 key things to know ahead of Chelsea vs. Liverpool

Liverpool head to Chelsea for a huge Premier League meeting on Sunday afternoon, with defeat for either potentially ending their title hopes.

Jurgen Klopp‘s men are desperate for a response after their 1-0 defeat at Leicester on Tuesday, in what was a hugely below-par performance.

Next up is a trip to Chelsea this weekend, with the Blues similarly under pressure after drawing 1-1 at home to Brighton.

Here are 10 things to know ahead of the match.

 

1. Chelsea suffer shock dip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 4, 2021: Chelsea's manager Thomas Tuchel is interviewed after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. Chelsea won 1-0 condemning Liverpool to their fifth consecutive home defeat for the first time in the club’s history. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It wasn’t long ago that Chelsea were being anointed as the Premier League champions in waiting, following a superb start to the season.

Their form has completely deserted them, however, with a mixture of poor performances, injuries and Covid holding them back.

The midweek draw with Brighton was the latest setback and Thomas Tuchel’s side have now only won two of their last six league games.

They are eight points adrift of Man City without the game in hand Liverpool hold, and losing more ground on them this weekend would surely spell the end of their title challenge.

 

2. Potential Blues lineup

Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku reacts after the final whistle during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday August 22, 2021.

As mentioned, Chelsea have lost a number of key figures to injury and illness, meaning they will be short on Sunday.

Ben Chilwell is expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, but the England international’s absence only scratches the surface.

Reece James is out with a torn hamstring, while the same could apply to Andreas Christensen after both limped off against Brighton.

Thiago Silva, Timo Werner and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all doubts, too.

Romelu Lukaku should lead the line, meaning a physical battle with Virgil van Dijk will take place.

Possible Chelsea XI: Mendy; Sarr, Chalobah, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso; Mount, Havertz, Lukaku

 

3. Who’s missing for Liverpool?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, December 16, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara applauds the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Newcastle United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Thiago is still out after failing to overcome the hip injury that kept him out of the Leicester game, in a big blow for Klopp.

Takumi Minamino is also unavailable, with the Japanese joining Nat Phillips, Harvey Elliott and Divock Origi on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, three fresh positive Covid cases have further rocked Liverpool’s preparations ahead of the game – the unnamed trio are out of the game unless they return a negative PCR test.

Alisson and Roberto Firmino weren’t pictured in training on Thursday, but there is no confirmation that they are the players in question.

Meanwhile, Andy Robertson is still suspended.

 

4. Predicted Liverpool XI

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 28, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Given the must-win nature of Sunday’s trip to west London, it would be a shock if Liverpool’s strongest possible XI didn’t take to the field.

If Alisson is out, Caoimhin Kelleher will start.

Joel Matip should be favoured to Ibrahima Konate, while Kostas Tsimikas will continue in the absence of the suspended Robertson.

In midfield, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were both poor at Leicester, so Naby Keita, James Milner or Curtis Jones could come in.

Sadio Mane is also badly out of form and Klopp may consider bringing in Firmino, if he is available. The Senegalese is still likely to start, though.

Predicted Liverpool XI: Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Fabinho, Henderson, Keita; Salah, Mane, Jota

 

5. Stamford Bridge improvements

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 20, 2020: Liverpool's Sadio Mané (L) celebrates with team-mate Roberto Firmino (R) after scoring the first goal with a header during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

There was a time when Liverpool seemed incapable of beating Chelsea away from home, only winning once at Stamford Bridge between 1989 and 2008.

That came in January 2004, thanks to a Bruno Cheyrou strike.

In the Klopp era, however, the Reds have fared much better, only suffering defeat there on one occasion in the league, back in May 2018.

Liverpool picked up a 2-0 win in west London last season, thanks to a Mane double, as well as a 2-1 triumph in the title-winning campaign.

A third successive victory at Chelsea this weekend is paramount.

 

6. Worrying Thiago update

Speaking to the media on Friday, Klopp admitted that Thiago‘s injury is a complex one, leading to fears that he could be out for an extended period:

“Taki is probably closer. Taki is running outside, Thiago not yet. It means for him it might take a bit longer.

“It’s a hip issue, which we actually have no idea where it’s coming from, so we have to be a little bit patient with that.”

Having won all nine games he has started this season, it really is vital that Liverpool get the Spaniard back on the pitch as soon as possible.

 

7. Lukaku’s criticism of Tuchel

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 28, 2021: Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Chelsea never feel too far away from a crisis of some kind, even though they only won the Champions League earlier this year.

They have a history of managers falling out with players and it appears as though the same could be about to happen.

Speaking earlier in the week, Lukaku hinted that he was unhappy at Chelsea currently, threatening to spark a fallout with Tuchel:

“I think the coach has chosen to play with another system, I just have to not give up and continue to work and be a professional.

“I am not happy with the situation, but I am a professional and I won’t give up.”

 

8. Did you know?

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 28, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. Leicester City won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mane is experiencing a tough time of things, as doubts continue to linger regarding whether or not he has peaked as a player.

The Senegalese has now failed to register a single goal or assist in his last nine appearances, stretching back to the 4-0 win at home to Arsenal on November 20.

While Mane is still better than most wide players in the league, there is a feeling that he is dipped below the world-class level he has reached in the past.

One big performance before departing for the Africa Cup of Nations would be ideal.

 

9. Worrying referee appointments

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 29, 2019: Referee Anthony Taylor awards the opening goal to Liverpool after a VAR review during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. (Pic by Richard Roberts/Propaganda)

Manchester-born Anthony Taylor will take charge of the weekend action, which is unlikely to go down well with many Liverpool fans.

Not only that, but Paul Tierney is on VAR duty, fresh off the back of his appalling showing away to Spurs when he somehow failed to show Harry Kane a red card.

Buckle up folks, this one could be frustrating!

 

10. “And it’s live”…

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Friday, December 21, 2018: Former Liverpool player Jamie Carragher and former Manchester United player Gary Neville working for Sky Sports before the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sunday’s match is live on Sky Sports Main Event from 4.15pm (GMT), with kickoff at 4.30pm.

Our matchday live blog will also be available from 3.45pm, as Henry Jackson guides you through all the action from Stamford Bridge.

Come on you Reds.

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