10 May 2016

Liverpool v Chelsea 05.11.16

3pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
3-1 Liverpool (a) 10.31.15
1-1 (a) 05.10.15
0-1 Chelsea (a; League Cup) 01.27.15
1-1 (h; League Cup) 11.08.14

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Watford (h); 3-0 Villarreal (h); 1-3 Swansea (a)
Chelsea: 2-3 Sunderland (a); 2-2 Tottenham (h); 4-1 Bournemouth (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Firmino 10; Benteke, Coutinho, Sturridge 8; Milner, Origi 5; Lallana 4; Allen, Henderson, Ings 2; Can, Clyne, Moreno, Sakho, Skrtel, Toure 1
Chelsea: Costa 12; Pedro 7; Willian 5; Fabregas 4; Hazard, Oscar 3; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Matic, Ramires, Traore 2; Falcao, Kennedy, Loftus-Cheek, Pato, Remy, Terry, Zouma 1

Referee: Michael Oliver

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Lovren Toure Moreno
Milner Can
Lallana Firmino Coutinho

It's awfully handy that the schedule worked out where the mid-week "first-team" gets Chelsea, and the shadow-side gets Watford then West Brom before the first-team comes back in for the Europa League final.

It's one of the few times the schedule has done Liverpool any favors this season.

I'd be very surprised if it weren't the same XI we saw against Villarreal. Maybe Allen keeps his place ahead of Can, more to protect the recently-returned Can rather than giving Allen - who has been quite good lately - another chance to prove himself. Maybe Liverpool play 4-3-3, as they did in the 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge, with either Sturridge or Firmino up top rather than both, as well as Allen in midfield, but I doubt it. Liverpool will be at home, Liverpool won't be as reliant on counter-attacks as they were at Chelsea, Liverpool are better than they were in October (as are Chelsea, at least when they try to be).

Do what you do. What you did to Villarreal. What you aim to do to Sevilla next week.

Meanwhile, guessing Chelsea's XI seems fairly safe as well. John Terry's suspended (lol), Pedro's questionable, and Remy and Zouma are out. It'll probably be Courtois; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Rahman; Matic, Mikel; Willian, Fabregas, Hazard; Costa - pretty much the same side we've seen in the last few weeks except for the missing Terry and Pedro. Maybe Chelsea finally decide to give youth a chance - Bertrand Traore, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy all seemingly deserve more playing time - but they haven't yet, even with the season already long gone. Which is baffling.

Of course, I'd rather Chelsea didn't. Better the devil we know. That inconsistent devil that can't finish any higher than ninth, which has taken fewer points than any other Premier League champion. Of course, that devil still poses multiple problems when they're on form: see the 2-2 draw against Tottenham to confirm Leicester's title, see Hazard's dramatic resurgence in that match. Spite is a hell of a motivator. Chelsea, unsurprisingly, seems to run on spite these days. And there's usually an awful lot of spite between these two sides.

It seemed as if Chelsea's form against Tottenham would continue into the next match at Sunderland, twice taking a first-half lead, but conceding two equalizers then Defoe's winner, utterly dire for the entire second half, culminating in Terry's very late second yellow. To be fair, Sunderland needed the points far, far more than Chelsea did. It was still very much a match and in keeping with Chelsea's bipolar season.

Let's hope Liverpool - at Anfield for the last time this season, in Klopp's 50th (!!!) game since joining the club in October - get bad Chelsea, at-the-beach Chelsea tomorrow. And if Liverpool don't, let's hope we get the Liverpool which beat Dortmund, Everton, and Villarreal in the last month, a Liverpool more than capable of beating in-form Chelsea, especially when in front of a roaring Anfield.

This will probably be the last match that many of Liverpool's starters play before the Europa League final. Confirm your place. Make it count.

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