One of the Premier League’s fiercest rivalries will resume at Stamford Bridge on Sunday when champions Chelsea welcome Liverpool.
The Blues’ 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace last weekend confirmed Jose Mourinho’s men as title-winners so the Reds are expected to set aside recent tensions between the clubs and give Chelsea the traditional ‘guard of honour’ onto the pitch in recognition of their achievement.
Mourinho views this encounter and the next two as opportunities for Chelsea to show respect to their Premier League rivals by producing decent performances. The Blues manager also admitted that he will offer more chances to the squad players he hardly used during their title charge.
The stakes are higher for the visitors because Liverpool have a chance to mount a top-four challenge given Manchester United’s form recently, plus the key players out injured for Louis van Gaal’s charges.
Steven Gerrard was the villain when Liverpool lost the key top-four game at Anfield against Manchester United but the Reds skipper redeemed himself last weekend by scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory over QPR.
That victory, coupled with Manchester United’s 1-0 home defeat to West Brom, reduced the gap between the fifth-placed Reds and the fourth-placed Red Devils to just four points.
Given that United have to welcome an in-form Arsenal plus a trip to Hull City who may still be battling, Liverpool will know that if they win their remaining three games then they could finish in the final Champions League spot.
To finish in the top four, they need to raise their game, having won just twice in their last six league outings.
Chelsea team news
- Oscar is expected to miss the rest of the season because of a thigh injury he picked up in training. His Brazilian counterpart Ramires is a doubt because of illness.
- Diego Costa is also expected to miss out with a hamstring problem.
Liverpool team news
- Mamadou Sakho (hamstring) and Jon Flanagan (knee) remain sidelined.
- Mario Balotelli is a doubt because of an ankle injury.
Chelsea vs Liverpool prediction
Jose Mourinho promised to make some changes, so Petr Cech could start in goal while Kurt Zouma and Filipe Luis may be handed starts in defence. He will still be looking to win the game so the majority of the regular starters should be involved from the off.
Brendan Rodgers would have noticed in his assessment of Chelsea that they remain solid against aerial threats and intricate football through the middle. The only avenue Mourinho’s men seem to have some problems is when teams start with quick players in advanced positions and attack at pace.
That could see the Reds boss drop Rickie Lambert from the starting XI that defeated QPR, with Raheem Sterling leading the attack. Possibly Jordon Ibe and Philippe Coutinho will be deployed as wide forwards in a 4-3-3 formation.
In central midfield, Lucas Leiva could return to the side as the sitting midfielder allowing Gerrard and Jordan Henderson to operate as ball players in more advanced positions.
It is difficult to predict the players Mourinho will rest but the Reds will approach this encounter with some belief that they can get something as they will be facing a side that has a good chance of dropping their normal level of intensity.
Odd’s & prediction
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