Liverpool travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday for a game with huge ramifications on both sides’ title aspirations. Liverpool are coming off a defeat away to Leicester whilst Chelsea were held to a frustrating home draw by Brighton. We preview the game.

Boosted by their Champions League title win, Chelsea capitalised on the feel-good factor and started the season strongly, with big money signing Romelu Lukaku firing early on. Their defence was nigh on impenetrable, making them many pundits’ early favourites for the title.

Things were looking rosy for Chelsea from August through to late October. They were top of the table and looking unstoppable. Then came November and in the very first match they were held to a draw by Burnley in a game they should have won comfortably given the chances they had.

Since then they’ve only managed to win half of the next dozen games. Their airtight defence has looked leaky, with just the 4 clean sheets in the last 13 games in all competitions. Their last 5 home league games has seen four draws, with the sole victory being a lucky 3-2 win over Leeds United.

Draws at home to Manchester United, Everton and Brighton, coupled with defeat away to West Ham and another stalemate at Wolves, has seen them fall 8 points behind Manchester City. Their title hopes are hanging by a thread as they battle with injuries and Covid.

The same can be said of Jürgen Klopp’s side who have dropped 5 points in their last two league outings. A draw at Spurs was followed up with defeat at the King Power as they fell 9 points behind Manchester City, albeit with a game in hand.

Win that outstanding match at home to Leeds United and Liverpool will still be 6 points behind Pep Guardiola’s side. For the Reds to realistically have a chance of wrestling the title from City’s grasp, they must go to Stamford Bridge and the Etihad and win.

That’s a feat they haven’t managed in the same season since the manager’s very first few months at the club back in 2015. Back then, they romped to a 3-1 win at the Bridge, before topping that with a 4-1 demolition at the Etihad the following month.

That it’s been over six years since the Reds managed that feat tells you what they are up against this season. This Sunday is must win, it’s a straightforward shootout. Whoever loses, bows out of the title race. Whoever wins, stays in City’s rearview, whereas a draw knocks both sides out.

Liverpool will need to pull out all the stops on Sunday

Hopefully this means we see both sides going all out for victory to make it an entertaining spectacle. With City playing Arsenal before this game kicks off, they could be 11 and 12 points clear of Chelsea and Liverpool respectively by then. The stakes could be even higher should the Citizens drop points at the Emirates.

When Chelsea came to Anfield in August, they received plaudits for battling to a draw after going down to ten men on the stroke of halftime. Jürgen Klopp has a solid record against the Blues though. In his six trips to Stamford Bridge, he’s overseen four wins, a draw and a solitary defeat.

Chelsea did however knock Liverpool out of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge last season. The draw at Anfield earlier this season received a huge buildup with Lukaku being pitted against Van Dijk in the media.

It was billed as the unstoppable force coming up against the immovable object. The build up in that sense has been slightly low key so far, with Lukaku making headlines instead for an interview recently where he cited his unhappiness with Thomas Tuchel’s system.

With Tuchel less than pleased with his big money striker’s comments, we could see a sub plot develop here. Any distractions will be a huge boost to Liverpool. The Reds who will lose Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita to AFCON after the game, will hope to take advantage of any unrest.

Whatever happens on Sunday will decide how the rest of the season will be approached. Both sides are aware this is a battle to be the number one contender. The reigning champions look imperious at the minute and will take some stopping. That task will fall to whoever wins on Sunday.

Team News

For Liverpool, Elliott (ankle), Phillips (cheekbone), Origi (knee), Minamino (muscle), Thiago (hip) and Robertson (suspension) are all out. Klopp has also confirmed three first team members have contracted Covid. Alisson and Firmino are believed to be two of the three after missing training yesterday.

For Chelsea, Reece James (hamstring), Christensen (back), Loftus-Cheek (muscle) and Chilwell (knee) are out injured. The trio of Timo Werner, Thiago Silva and Kai Havertz have all been in training today and should be available for the fixture, Covid permitting of course.

Key Players

Mason Mount

Chelsea’s Player of the Year last season has picked up where he left off last season. He’s scored 7 goals and laid on 5 assists in just 17 league matches this season. He continues to grow and blossom for his boyhood club. He’s been in good form recently and will be one to keep an eye on.

Mohamed Salah

The 29 year old has failed to score or assist in his last two games after missing a penalty in the defeat to Leicester City. Coming up against his former club, he would want to make an impact to keep his side in the title race before he departs for AFCON. He still tops the league for goals as well as assists, and will be a handful for Marcos Alonso.

Romelu Lukaku

The Belgian has come in for some criticism after his interview with Sky Italy. What better way to shut people up than to let his football do the talking? His record of 7 goals and 2 assists in 18 appearances since his €100 million move from Inter is modest, but having scored in back to back games he comes into this clash in great shape.



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