Chelsea v Liverpool
Live on BBC 1
Final chance of silverware for Blues
A top-four finish remains very much on the cards for Chelsea – they’re three points clear of the chasing pack – but Champions League progression is nigh on impossible after being picked apart by Bayern in a 3-0 loss at Stamford Bridge last week.
It means the FA Cup is their last chance to put another trophy in the cabinet and, in theory, a home game against a weakened/stuttering Liverpool gives them a great opportunity to progress.
Chelsea have beaten a pair of Championship sides – 2-0 at home to Nottingham Forest and 2-1 away at Hull – to reach the last 16 so this is obviously a step up.
Frank Lampard’s men have already clashed with Liverpool twice this season, losing on penalties in the Super Cup after a 2-2 draw and being edged out 2-1 in the Premier League encounter at Stamford Bridge.
In other words, they’ve given them two good games.
However, home form has been a constant struggle with five defeats in the Premier League and further losses in the Champions League and League Cup.
Reds have lost rhythm
Well, what happened there!
A 3-0 defeat to Watford ended Liverpool’s hopes of going through the Premier League season unbeaten and represented a second defeat in three matches following their 1-0 loss to Atletico Madrid in Spain.
The winter break is proving a negative so far for Jurgen Klopp’s men, seemingly hurting their rhythm and it may be a few weeks yet before its benefits kick in.
The sixty-four million dollar question, of course, is what team does Klopp send out here?
With no political point to make about fixtures and some squad players clearly needing minutes – Matip, Lovren, Lallana, Origi, Minamino – does he play it safer rather than risk the kids who did so well to overcome Everton at Anfield?
Or does Klopp go much stronger than we think, knowing that this is a very winnable trophy if he can just get past this tricky hurdle?
Home advantage and an expectation that the Reds will be some way short of first choice means the build-up prices see Chelsea as clear if slightly uncertain favourites at [2.22]. Liverpool are [3.05] which could look a big price or a lousy one while The Draw is [4.3].
Whatever their faults and ups and downs, Chelsea do always seem to find a way of winning trophies.
And whatever scenario plays out, I can see how Lampard’s men could come out on top in either.
If Liverpool play kids/squad players, there’s an obvious chance for a more experienced Chelsea to get it done.
If Liverpool do send out most of the full troops, Chelsea may actually enjoy the visitors having plenty of the ball and hitting them on the break.
That style of football has turned them into such a good team on their travels this season.
It’s hardly a confident call but with Jordan Henderson and James Milner sidelined, the Merseysiders could lack real leadership and Chelsea may just have enough to add to Liverpool’s recent setbacks.
Chelsea have been scoring their share but leaking plenty in recent matches.
That was shown in the 2-2 away to Bournemouth and Over 2.5 goals has landed in six of their last seven outings. It’s just [1.74] to land again.
The goals have dried up for Liverpool on the road and three stodgy away performances have seen them manage to score just once (Sadio Mane’s winner at Norwich) in their last 270 minutes outside of Anfield.
If that continues, Unders at [2.18] makes some appeal.
In similar fashion, I wouldn’t be rushing out to back Both teams to Score at [1.65] but would consider ‘No’ at [2.32].
Marcus Alonso is filling his boots at the moment, taking up advanced positions and scoring goals.
He could easily have had a hat-trick against Bournemouth although a brace made it three in three after his strike against Tottenham so the Spaniard could offer some value.
Again, team news is key although it’s almost a certainty that Curtis Jones will start for Liverpool after his stunning winner against Everton.
Perhaps the FA Cup is his tournament this season and, if you believe that, the 16/5 for anytime or 15/2 first scorer are worth pondering.
If starting, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is certainly big at 4/1 anytime given his eight goals in all comps for Liverpool this season. They’ve all come in his last 25 games.