09 May 2015

Liverpool at Chelsea 05.10.15

11am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
0-1 Chelsea aet (a; League Cup) 01.27.15
1-1 (h; League Cup) 01.20.14
1-2 Chelsea (h) 11.08.14
0-2 Chelsea (h) 04.27.14

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 QPR (h); 0-1 Hull (a); 0-0 West Brom (a)
Chelsea: 1-0 Palace (h); 3-1 Leicester (a); 0-0 Arsenal (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Gerrard, Sterling 7; Henderson 6; Coutinho 5; Lallana, Sturridge 4; Lambert, Markovic, Moreno 2; Allen, Balotelli, Borini, Can, Johnson, Skrtel 1
Chelsea: Costa 19; Hazard 14; Oscar 6; Remy 5; Drogba, Ivanovic, Terry 4; Fabregas, Schürrle 3; Ramires, Willian 2; Cahill, Matic 1

Referee: Andre Marriner

Guess at a line-up:
Can Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Henderson Coutinho
Sterling Lambert Lallana

I'm tired of guessing the 3-4-3 to return. Rodgers has gone with the 4-3-3 for the last four matches, and shows no sign of abating. So, chances are, tomorrow's XI will look a lot like last Saturday's, even though facing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is a far different proposition than QPR at Anfield.

With Moreno back in the squad, there seems no need to start Glen Johnson, clearly on his way out of the club in the summer. Gerrard, as has been demonstrated, is a slightly different case; fitness permitting, I suspect he'll start in the last three matches, because he's Gerrard and because – as shown against QPR – Liverpool need all the match-winners they can get into the squad, despite the other problems Gerrard's inclusion entails. But yes, Gerrard as the deepest midfielder in a 4-3-3 up against Chelsea's line of three attacking midfielders is absolutely terrifying.

The XI is easier to guess than the formation. Coutinho, Henderson, Sterling, Skrtel, Lovren, Can, and Mignolet are certain starters. As is Gerrard, for the reasons mentioned above. Lallana probably is as well. The other two positions – left (wing)back and striker – are less certain. Moreno should feature rather than Johnson. Lambert probably did enough last week to earn another start, especially since the other options are Sterling up front or Balotelli.

If Sterling does start centrally, which should be a distinct possibility given that Liverpool will have to rely much more on the counter, Allen or Lucas would come into midfield with Coutinho pushed into the front three.

Would I rather see Mignolet; Can, Skrtel, Lovren; Ibe, Henderson, Allen, Moreno; Lallana, Sterling, Coutinho? Well, yeah. It's the formation where Liverpool has looked the best this season, it's the formation which prevented Chelsea from scoring an open play goal in all 210 minutes of the League Cup semifinal. But I'm trying to stop wishing for things that seemingly aren't going to happen.

As for the league champions. The fully deserved league champions, by the way. Oscar and Ramires will be absent, and I highly doubt Mourinho will risk Diego Costa either. But I also doubt that Chelsea will start playing the kids and reserves now that they've wrapped up the title. Out of the FA Cup, out of Europe, and with few significant injuries, they've no need to rest players. They'll want to acknowledge these players' contributions to the title. And, because Mourinho, they probably wouldn't mind rubbing Liverpool's face in it either.

So I'd be surprised if Chelsea's XI wasn't Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Cuadrado, Willian, Hazard; Drogba. Maybe Zouma plays in defense or midfield. Maybe Ake or Loftus-Cheek, the two u-21 players to appear for the senior side this season, get a chance. But it seems unlikely.

Liverpool haven't beaten Chelsea since Dalglish was manager, a 4-1 victory at Anfield in May 2012, a meaningless match that came three days after Liverpool lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Since then, since Rodgers became manager, three draws and four losses (one of those losses in extra-time), with Liverpool second-best in approximately five of those seven contests.

Tomorrow's match may be insignificant in the greater scheme of things, with Chelsea's title secure and Liverpool's future – a place in the Europa League next season – all but sown up even if the final league position isn't, but that's a stat that needs changing. And, despite this season's disappointments, we need still need to see the players look like they want to play for Liverpool, something that hasn't necessarily happened in the last few matches.

No comments :