Chelsea and Liverpool will battle it out against each other on Sunday evening as they look to keep pace with Premier League leaders Manchester City.
The first Premier League Matchweek of 2022 is underway, and fans will be treated to a blockbuster encounter on Sunday as Chelsea play hosts to fellow title contenders Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, with both teams hoping to return to winning ways.
After a blistering start to the campaign, Chelsea have somewhat lost their way in recent weeks. A combination of injuries, Covid and poor performances have meant that the Blues have won just two of their last six league games and find themselves 11 points shy of league leaders Manchester City, albeit with a game in hand. Thomas Tuchel & co. were held to a 1-1 draw by Brighton & Hove Albion earlier this week and will be aiming to bounce back on Sunday.
As for Liverpool, after a six-game winning run in the Premier League, they have dropped points in their last two league encounters, losing the latest one 1-0 to Leicester City. It has meant that they fell to third place in the standings, one point below second-placed Chelsea and 12 shy of leaders Manchester City. With the gap at the top widening, it is imperative that Jurgen Klopp & co. return to winning ways at the earliest as they risk losing further ground in the title race.
The reverse fixture at Anfield earlier this season had ended in a 1-1 draw. But Liverpool have beaten Chelsea in three of their last five visits to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League. Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Hear more from the boss ahead of #CheLiv. ⤵️
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 31, 2021
Chelsea have been dealt with a fresh blow as Reece James picked up a hamstring injury against Brighton earlier this week and is set to miss out on Sunday. He joins fellow full-back Ben Chilwell on the sidelines while Timo Werner is unlikely to return after recently recovering from Covid. Andreas Christensen, too, is set to miss out due to a back issue, but Thiago Silva is back in training.
The Brazilian should walk right back into the starting XI, at the expense of Christensen, while Trevoh Chalobah is in contention to feature from kickoff as well, with Cesar Azpilicueta likely to move to the right wing-back slot. Antonio Rudiger will occupy the remaining spot in the three-man backline that will provide cover to Edouard Mendy.
After featuring from the bench in midweek, N’Golo Kante is expected to return to the starting XI against Liverpool. His energy and ability to break up attacks will be key for Chelsea to stop their visitors on Sunday. Jorginho will partner him in the middle of the park at Stamford Bridge. Marcos Alonso should step into the side at left wing-back but will have his task cut out against Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi are guaranteed starters in the two attacking midfield slots for the reigning European champions. It remains to be seen if Tuchel opts to hand Romelu Lukaku a start after his recent comments that have kicked up quite the storm. However, he has scored in each of his last two games, and with Werner unavailable and Kai Havertz lacking fitness, the Belgian could start versus Liverpool.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kante, Alonso; Mount, Hudson-Odoi; Lukaku
Jurgen Klopp has confirmed three players have tested positive for Covid in the lead-up to the game, although their identities have not been revealed. The German tactician himself has returned a positive test and will not be travelling to London. Alisson Becker and Roberto Firmino were not pictured in training on Thursday and could be among those who have contracted the virus.
In addition, Takumi Minamino, Thiago Alcantara, Nathaniel Phillips, Divock Origi, Harvey Elliott and Adrian are all injury-enforced absentees. Andy Robertson will serve the final of his three-match suspension against Chelsea.
Jürgen Klopp will miss our meeting with Chelsea on Sunday after returning a suspected positive COVID-19 test result.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 1, 2022
In case Alisson is unavailable, Caoimhin Kelleher is likely to step into the side to guard the goal for Liverpool. He will be shielded by the backline comprising Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Kostas Tsimikas. Alexander-Arnold, who is in line to make his 200th appearance for the Reds, will need to step up after a sub-par display against Leicester City.
Fabinho is expected to slot in at the base of the midfield for the visiting team, with Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita set to flank him on either side, although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also an option for the manager to consider.
With Firmino’s involvement in doubt, Diogo Jota picks himself in the No. 9 role. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, both of whom will be flying away for the Africa Cup of Nations after Sunday’s game, will be aiming to lead the team to a victory before they take off for international duty.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Tsimikas; Henderson, Fabinho, Keita; Salah, Jota, Mane
- After losing four consecutive Premier League games against Liverpool between 2019 and 2020, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last two against the Reds (W1 D1), though both of these games have come at Anfield.
- Liverpool have won their previous two Premier League away games against Chelsea – only one visiting team has won three consecutively at Stamford Bridge in the competition, with Blackburn Rovers doing so between 1993/94 and 1995/96.
- Chelsea have dropped 11 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season, one more than they did in 2020/21.
- Liverpool are winless in their three Premier League games in London this season (D2 L1), with the Reds conceding as many goals in these games as they had in their previous 12 visits to the capital in the competition (8).
- Liverpool star Mohamed Salah has been directly involved in 13 goals in his past 13 league matches in London, scoring eight and assisting five. However, he has failed to score in all four of his Premier League appearances for the Reds at Stamford Bridge.
Player to Watch
Romelu Lukaku has shared how he feels about his current situation at Chelsea 🗣 pic.twitter.com/NU0oDgNk8E
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 30, 2021
Six months into his second spell at Chelsea and the 28-year-old centre-forward already finds himself in the eye of the storm. After a decline in his returns in front of goal, Romelu Lukaku recently hit out against Thomas Tuchel, expressing his displeasure over the tactics being employed by the German.
The manager has criticised the Belgian for creating ‘unwanted noise’ at a time when the team can do without any unnecessary distractions. So, the big question heading into the game against Liverpool is whether Lukaku is retained in the side or axed by Tuchel. Given the lack of options, though, the ex-Inter Milan star could get the nod on Sunday and will need to deliver a big performance.
Lukaku has failed to score in eight consecutive league appearances against Liverpool since netting for Everton in a 1-1 stalemate at Goodison Park way back in October 2015. Whether he can end that disappointing run this weekend could have a say in how this contest unfolds at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
Both teams head into Sunday’s game searching for victories after failing to win their previous match. Chelsea, though, look like the team with a bigger problem than Liverpool. The Blues have looked a pale shadow of the side that was on fire in the early parts of the campaign.
Things are not clicking in attack while defensively they have been poor as well – Chelsea have kept just one clean sheet in their last eight Premier League games. Brighton cut through them with ease time and again earlier this week, and Liverpool, with their superior quality, should be able to do the same and do so with greater impact while making the most of the chances that come their way.
It is likely to be an entertaining affair with plenty of chances coming at both ends. However, Liverpool, having won on each of their last two Premier League visits to Stamford Bridge, should have enough to do so again on Sunday.