Chelsea v Liverpool | Saturday 31 October | Stamford Bridge | 14:45
Jurgen Klopp will be targeting his second Liverpool victory on Saturday as his side travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Jose Mourinho’s wounded Chelsea. These sides have played out some thrilling matchups in recent seasons with very little to separate them.
To Win (90 Mins)
Chelsea endured a miserable start to the 2015/16 season. The champions – yes really – have won just three of their opening ten matches this season with five defeats against Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Everton, Southampton, and West Ham last time out. In Chelsea’s title-winning campaign, the Blues were invincible at Stamford Bridge with 15 wins from 19 games and four draws. This season, they’ve won just twice in five games with two defeats against Everton and West Ham. Last season the Blues beat both of those teams home and away.
There are various reports suggesting that Mourinho could face the sack should Chelsea fail to pick up maximum points against Liverpool. It's hard to believe that the Portuguese could be on his way out, just five months after lifting the title, but even worse for the coach is the news that Pep Guardiola – his arch-nemesis, while both were in Spain with Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively – is being sounded out as a replacement.
This time last year Mourinho’s all-conquering Chelsea side were well on their way to clocking up a record-breaking 23-match unbeaten run. Now they are a shambles. There’s no doubt that the Blues are missing first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is only expected to return in January after a lengthy injury. Asmir Begovic has done a decent job in the Belgian’s absence, but the Bosnian shot-stopper shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as Courtois. Last season’s PFA Player of the Year, Eden Hazard, has been a shadow of himself this season and has struggled to earn himself a regular place in the team.
Chelsea will look to the likes of Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Willian to step up to the plate and fight tooth and nail for three valuable points on Saturday. Nemanja Matic will be available to play despite the Serbian receiving a second yellow card against West Ham. Matic will miss his team’s Capital One Cup fixture against Stoke, midweek, but his return this weekend should boost the Blues chances against Liverpool.
The Blues will find some confidence in the fact that they are unbeaten against the Reds in their last eight games. The champions are capable of beating any team in the world, let alone league, but until they find their form they will have to try eek out results. Chelsea are currently languishing in 15th place in the Premier League and that has to change if the Blues still want to take part in next season’s UEFA Champions League.
Klopp's wait for his first win as Liverpool boss continues after a frustrating home draw against Southampton. This was Liverpool's fifth consecutive draw and their eighth draw in their last nine games in all competitions. There's consistency, just not the type that Klopp would like. Sadio Mane's equaliser arrived nine minutes after Christian Benteke's towering header had given Liverpool the lead. From the moment the Saints' No. 10 bundled the ball in at the Kop end, the home side never looked like retaking the lead and claiming the three points.
Conceding shortly after taking the lead has become symptomatic of Liverpool's troubles this season—it was the sixth time this season that they had scored first and then conceded within 20 minutes. Klopp will be confident he can secure his first win as Liverpool boss against Chelsea this weekend with the dreadful form the Blues are in.
One thing Klopp must change is the attacking makeup of this Liverpool side—a side who sit on a negative goal difference in late October and have scored the same amount of league goals as bottom-of-the-table Aston Villa. Nine goals in ten games is an abysmal return from a squad that contains Benteke, Roberto Firmino, Danny Ings, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho. A squad with those five in it should be scoring goals. Of course, injuries have beset four of those five, and the fifth—Coutinho—is desperately out of form.
This is a Chelsea side that are ready for the taking and Liverpool will need to create goalscoring opportunities and convert them, if they are to win this match. What Klopp has improved though is the base of the Liverpool side, with the back four looking more assured. The Reds will be up for it against Chelsea just as they always are and will feel it’s about time they beat the champions - their last victory over the Blues came in the 2011/12 season in a 4-1 win. There are dangerous players and huge scoring threats in this Liverpool side and Chelsea will need to tighten their defence to avoid them getting on the score sheet.
Verdict: Draw 26/10
Chelsea have struggled to find their rhythm this season and are not as convincing on their turf as they were last year. These teams have drawn five of their last eight meetings. It’s always been close whenever these teams face each other. The draw looks likely and offers more value at 26/10, but the safest bet is Liverpool on the Win/Draw at 17/20.