With the season drawing to a close, there is still one more top four clash remaining, and what a match we have in prospect. Liverpool vs. Chelsea, Rodgers vs. Mourinho, former colleagues, now rivals. Both teams, alongside City, are gunning for the title and the result here will have huge implications as to where the trophy will end up this season. Liverpool and Man City battled it out two weeks ago in a match which was then called the title decider. The Reds came out victorious in that match but with Chelsea also in the running, it is now this match which is being called the title decider. If it is anything like the fixture a fortnight ago, we are sure to be entertained.
The hosts have one hand on the trophy after going on an amazing 11 game winning streak. Their chances of a title push looked bleak after they lost to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in December, but have been unbeaten since that defeat, winning 14 and drawing two of their last 16 matches. After a tight 3-2 win against struggling Norwich last weekend, Liverpool need just seven points from their last three games to ensure that they are champions for the first time in 23 years.
Chelsea were dealt a hammer blow to their chances of becoming champions after suffering a 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland in their last match. This was Mourinho’s first ever Premier League defeat at home and the timing was far from ideal, with the Blues now five points off, Liverpool and only one point ahead of Man City who have a game in hand over both teams. Anything but a win here will almost certainly extinguish any hopes of the title but with Mourinho in charge, you always have a chance, even with the injuries Chelsea are suffering with at the moment.
Building up to the game, let us look at each teams’ statistics as well as the players that are likely to shine on the day.
Rodgers and Mourinho know each other very well and have a good relationship having worked together at Chelsea in Mourinho’s first spell in charge. Rodgers then went onto manage Watford, Reading, Swansea and now by the time Mourinho came back to manage Chelsea for the second time, Rodgers was now a rival at the helm of Liverpool. However, many expected Liverpool to be fighting for a top four position, so it is testament to Rodgers that they have already secured a top three place with three games to go. The Northern Irishman’s shrewd tactics have worked a treat, especially in the second half of the season. Alternating between a 4-3-3 and a 4-1-2-1-2 formation has enabled his team to pick out weaknesses in their opponents and keep them guessing as to what team Liverpool would field. His man management skills have also been applauded by the players and the confidence is there for all to see.
We all know how good Mourinho is. His CV speaks for itself with successful spells at all his clubs and a winning mentality which has followed him around wherever he has gone. Chelsea are still in the race for the title and are in the semi-final of the Champions League, with Mourinho stating that Europe is his priority and that he is likely to rest key players in the clash against Liverpool. Whether this is just typical Mourinho mind games or not we will wait and see but one thing is for certain, Chelsea will not hand this title to Liverpool and Mourinho and his men will do all they can to sneak the win they need. Chelsea have an excellent record against the top teams this season so they will be going to Anfield without fear.
Liverpool have been in red hot form in front of goal this season, hitting the back of the net 96 times already, a club record. They’re on course to overtake Chelsea’s record of 103 goals in one season with three games to go. Averaging a goal every 35 minutes, Liverpool have a chance conversion rate of 20% from a total of 477 shots. Suarez and Sturridge have been the standout players from a goal scoring point of view with 30 and 20 goals respectively whereas Sterling, Gerrard and Skrtel have scored nearly 30 goals combined.
If Liverpool do win the league, it is likely that they will do it having conceded the most goals out of any championship winning side. Man Utd hold the record with 45 goals and Liverpool are just one short. Even though the attacking side of their game has been excellent, the defence has been suspect at times this season, resulting in high scoring contests. Liverpool have only kept 10 clean sheets season with 1.26 goals conceded per game. Individual mistakes have been an issue, with nervousness during certain stages in matches also a factor.
Chelsea on the other hand have been excellent defensively, with Terry and Cahill being arguably the best centre-backs in the league this season. With 16 clean sheets under their belt, the Blues have only conceded 26 goals all term, averaging 0.74 goals conceded per game. Ivanovic has again starred at right back with the surprise package being that of Cesar Azpilicueta, who has displaced Ashley Cole this season to become first choice left back. The arrival of Matic has given Chelsea the solidity they need in front of their defence, with Cech again being key in goal.
Mourinho has previously stated that Chelsea cannot win the league because they do not have an out and out goal scorer in their team, and by looking at the statistics, it is hard to argue with him. Chelsea have scored a respectable 67 goals this season, although this is nearly 30 goals behind their rivals Liverpool. The Blues have managed to win games by the solitary goal on a number of occasions this season, which has allowed them to be content with the lack of attacking threat in games. Forwards Torres, Eto’o and Ba have only scored 17 goals between them, which for a top team like Chelsea is far less than is required. Hazard has chipped in with an impressive 14 goals with the likes of Oscar and Schürrle also scoring a few vital goals.
Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho has not been able to establish himself within the team as injuries have limited him to just 15 starts so far. His aggressive nature has been excellent against the bigger forwards but has found himself troubled when under pressured by opposition players. Nevertheless, Sakho is tipped to hold down a starting place in Liverpool’s back line for years to come and has started the last three games. The Frenchman has an excellent tackle success rate, winning 91.67% of his 24 tackles thus far. Sakho will want the match to go better than in his last encounter with Chelsea, in which Liverpool lost 2-1 with Sakho injured with a torn hamstring.
Cahill has been one of Chelsea’s star men at the back and has matured fantastically well after making the move to Stamford Bridge from Bolton. With no defensive errors this season, he has slowly become Mourinho’s Mr. Reliable, with a strong presence in his own half and an excellent work rate. Cahill has started 28 games so far and Chelsea have kept 15 clean sheets in those games, conceding only 19, which shows the impact Cahill has on the team. With 68% and 70% success rates for ground and aerial duels, the England international has dealt with the pressure of being at a big club excellently and will likely to play a huge part defensively on Sunday with regular partner John Terry injured for the game.
After the win against Norwich on the weekend, Rodgers was quoted as saying that Sterling is the best young player in Europe at the moment. His consistently exceptional performances have caught the eye of many a fan in the Premier League with another two goals to his name in his last match in another superb display. It is hard to think that Sterling couldn’t buy himself a place in the first team at the start of the season, even when Suarez was banned. His first start for the Reds was against Hull, he was low on confidence which resulted in a poor performance and defeat. However, since then the 19 year old has flourished under Liverpool’s new counter attacking system and has been in top form in tandem with Suarez and Sturridge. His two goals against Norwich took his tally to nine for the season with four assists to his name. He has managed 78 successful dribbles as well as creating 43 chances for his team mates. Sterling is one of the first players on the team sheet now and will again look to make an impact against Chelsea.
The Brazilian international, who was in talks with Liverpool before signing for Chelsea, has managed to establish himself as a regular first team player after a difficult start to his career in London. His pace and trickery is what his game revolves around but Mourinho expects much more from his players, with defensive duties a must for all of his personnel. Willian does the ugly side of the game very well with good pressing and covers his full back efficiently. With 58 chances created for his team, Willian has two assists and three goals to his name but his all round effort and work rate has made him favourite with Mourinho and he will hope start again at Anfield.
After taking a dramatic U-turn and staying at Liverpool last summer, many questioned whether he had the passion and ability to produce the goods again whilst in a Reds shirt. Those doubts were quashed quite early is what has been a remarkable season for the Uruguayan hit man. Sure to be Player of the Season for this campaign, Suarez has been as deadly as any striker to grace the Premier League and has produced performances that will be remembered for years to come. Suarez’s 30 goals makes him only the sixth player to have reached the landmark and has comfortably made him top scorer, with team mate Daniel Sturridge the only other player to score 20 goals. Liverpool’s No.7 is also top of the assists table with 12 to his name, showing that he can create just as well as he can score. A danger whenever he is in the opposition half, Suarez has repaid the support shown to him by the fans and the team after a turbulent summer and has excelled beyond anybody’s imagination. Chelsea will have to be on top form to stop the man who literally can’t stop scoring.
Fernando Torres, in contrast, has had another sub-standard season in a Blues shirt. The former Liverpool striker, like Suarez, was on top of his game whilst at Anfield but has never been able to recapture the form shown in his Liverpool days. He has only managed to notch up four goals this season from a total of 33 shots, with a chance conversion rate of just 12%. It is unfair to criticise Torres alone, as many of his matches caused him to be in isolated positions up front on his own. Confidence has been a huge issue for the Spaniard and has also lost a yard or two in pace over the years. However, Torres has popped up with some important goals for Chelsea, especially in Europe and will want to dent the hopes of his former club on Sunday as well as boosting his own team’s chances of lifting the trophy.
Whatever the outcome of this match, the title will still not be decided after this weekend meaning that anything can happen in the last two weeks of the season. Saying that however, Liverpool can tighten their grip on top spot with a win, edging ever closer to the coveted title but if anyone can stop them, it will be Mourinho and his men who will aim to outwit his opponent and leave Anfield with a positive result. Either way let us hope for a spectacle to remember.
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