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Match Preview: Liverpool vs Chelsea

Joe Watson takes a look at this Sunday’s crucial match at home to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

Joe discusses his line-up predictions and also gives us a few betting tips to have a flutter with.

Right. Well, it’s that time again. Another week passes, another weekend arrives and with it, another Liverpool match. This year though, it’s all different…

When the fixture list for the year was released, even the most optimistic of fans are likely to have seen ‘Chelsea (H) 27/04/14’ and hoped to be in contention for the Top 4 and a subsequent Champions’ League place at this point. Our final ‘big’ game of the year, perhaps. However, an unthinkable change has fallen upon the Reds this season. Taking the previously unprecedented step up from 7th to 1st in the Premier League era was a pipe-dream, and without going into a full blown season review, as tempting as that may be; we are so, so close to achieving that dream.  

When Chelsea roll up on Sunday to Anfield, I would like to say they will step into an atmosphere the likes of which Mourinho and co have never witnessed. Except they won’t. Cast your mind back to 2005, and the second leg of the Champions’ League semi-final. It wasn’t too bad, was it? The fact of the matter is, as the recent home fixture against Manchester City proved, such times are back at Anfield once more. The wall of noise will undoubtedly be reaching a crescendo, aimed to first and foremost encourage our lads, but also to intimidate the opposition. Who knows, maybe even a ghost goal could be drawn in by the passion of the Kop? Surely not…

That is assuming, of course, that a ‘ghost goal’ will be needed; and I’m not so sure it will. After all, Liverpool have set themselves up to go and basically run riot at teams on the Anfield turf, no matter who they are. Everton, Tottenham, Arsenal? Not a problem. (I, like most Liverpool fans, choose to forget Southampton’s visit to Anfield this year). Combining an electric atmosphere with similarly explosive attacking moves has become a staple part of Liverpool’s home games in 2014, and this is something the Londoners will have to be wary of.

Brendan Rodgers has received a boost with the return to fitness of Daniel Sturridge, who is expected to be available and come back in to his starting berth. In contrast, Chelsea are plagued with injuries, with John Terry and Petr Cech both missing after picking up midweek knocks, plus Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o are facing late battles to be fit after recent injuries. Moreover, Jose Mourinho has announced his desire to play a ‘B’ team, and prioritise Wednesday’s Champions’ League tie with Atletico Madrid over the league campaign. Whether or not his statements will come to fruition remains to be seen, although one thing is for sure; any side he sends out is likely to have cost far more than Liverpool’s. I’ve done some betting tips below, you can check out the latest odds for them at Bovada.lv sportsbook, should that take your fancy. 

Predicted Line-ups 

Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan; Gerrard, Allen, Coutinho; Sterling, Sturridge, Suarez. 

I predict a return to the attacking system which dismantled Arsenal at Anfield, with Daniel Sturridge returning to the starting XI in place of Lucas Leiva as the only change from the victory over Norwich. I have got Mamadou Sakho retaining his place in the team as I believe his physical presence may be crucial in dealing with Chelsea’s set piece delivery, as well as being better suited than Daniel Agger to handle Demba Ba.

Chelsea: Schwarzer; Kalas, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole; Mikel, Matic, Lampard, Schurrle, Salah, Ba.

Well, this really is purely a prediction. Thanks to a plethora of mind games from Jose Mourinho, the starting XI for Chelsea is more difficult to predict than Kolo Toure’s thought process when playing football (Sorry Kolo).  However, I have gone with essentially a packed midfield of Matic, Mikel and Lampard which has bags more experience than Mourinho’s comments alluded to earlier in the week. With Matic and Salah both ineligible from Wednesday’s forthcoming Champions League fixture, there is no reason for them both to feature.

Betting tips

1. Martin Skrtel anytime scorer – Although I have been a critic of the Slovakian in the past, he is bang in form at the minute and has delivered in big games this season. Expect him to be in the mix for any Liverpool set pieces.

2. Liverpool win – It’s oh so simple, and yet who cares? If the Red’s win this, the League title could well be in our hands next week, so why not make it even more interesting? The chances of winning are high too, with Liverpool blowing away all their nearest rivals in the League table at home.

3. Liverpool to win both halves – The Redmen often fly out of the blocks in the big games and Sunday may not be any different. If they score early in both halves, there may well be no way back for Chelsea

4. Steven Gerrard first goalscorer – How sweet would it be for the captain to draw first blood in the game and propel Liverpool to their 12th straight win? With the alarming emergence of the nickname ‘Penaltypool’, opposition fans may not be surprised to see this particular man notch another goal to his tally.

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