Sunday afternoon brings us yet another mouth-watering clash at the top of the Premier League table – this time it’s Chelsea and Liverpool going to battle for the right to call themselves title contenders. Although Liverpool headed into this season as top four hopefuls, they’ve actually turned themselves into potential title contenders with fantastic performances at White Hart Lane and the Etihad Stadium. The 5-0 rout of Spurs was Liverpool’s finest performances from recent seasons but the 2-1 loss to Manchester City was perhaps the fixture that thrust Brendan Rodgers’ team into the minds of football supporters around the country. Popular opinion is that the Reds were Man City’s hardest home opposition this season and the men from Anfield will take great heart from that as they head to Stamford Bridge. However, Liverpool have now lost three of their last six away games – with just one win in that sequence (5-0 vs Spurs).
The Blues have enjoyed an efficient start to the season and sit usefully within striking distance of league leaders Arsenal. Chelsea beat Swansea City 1-0 on Boxing Day but the striking difficulties currently being experienced by Mourinho’s squad will be a niggling worry heading into a game with a team that can score numerous goals.
Chelsea head into this game with one of the healthiest squads in the league with just two injuries giving Mourinho selection headaches. Left back Ryan Bertrand has a slight knock and should miss this game whereas van Ginkel is sidelined until next season with an ACL injury.
Brendan Rodgers’ squad is looking much thinner with injuries to five players hampering his selection choices. First choice left back José Enrique is continuing his recovery from his knee operation and should return in the middle of January. Captain Steven Gerrard is missing once again after pulling his hamstring in the victory over West Ham United but the talisman should return for the New Year. The Reds’ second top goalscorer Daniel Sturridge remains sidelined with his troubling ankle injury but the Englishman isn’t going to be missing much longer than Steven Gerrard. Liverpool’s most recent injury worry comes in the shape of Jon Flanagan who missed the Manchester City game with a slight hamstring strain – the youngster will not be available for this match. Sebastián Coates remains out until at least pre-season.
The most mind-boggling statistic coming from the Chelsea camp is the fact that not a single recognised Chelsea striker scored a goal away from Stamford Bridge throughout the whole of 2013; let that sink in for a moment. That perhaps shows the strength of the Chelsea midfield more than anything because they’ve done pretty well despite their obvious deficiencies in attack. Chelsea have no less than six players on a 100% tackle win percentage – and David Luiz is among those on 100%. Chelsea’s overall passing accuracy is 84% compared to 85% from the Liverpool squad.
Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet has the worst passing accuracy in the squad – with 63%. Unsurprising really, considering his poor distribution this season. Liverpool have enjoyed a 49% shooting accuracy this season, which might explain their goalscoring feats, as the Reds are being far less wasteful in front of goal. However, the Reds could do better with their shot placement, 31 of their shots have been hit directly down the middle of the goal so far this season.
Hazard has been in great form of late and the Belgian is pushing hard to overtake Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero as the league’s best player. Hazard’s last game versus Swansea City was his second worst accuracy in terms of passing: the winger was accurate with just 69% of his passes. The only match in which he’s been less accurate was the Tottenham game in August when he completed just 60%, and Liverpool supporters will hope this passing statistic is repeated on Sunday. Hazard has created three clear-cut chances for his team-mates this season and has registered four assists in total. Chelsea’s pacey winger has won just 44% of his aerial duels this season – a potential avenue of attack for Liverpool?
There was simply only one choice when it came to picking Liverpool’s key man. The Uruguayan didn’t have his most prolific game during the Boxing Day clash with Manchester City but against the quality of Kompany this was perhaps expected. Suárez is still an obvious threat – the league’s top goalscorer has nineteen goals already this season, a total goals tally that has been achieved before we’ve even played half a season; furthermore, Suárez has become the league’s deadliest forward despite missing the first five games of the season. Suárez also loves playing Chelsea – the striker scored headed equalisers against Chelsea in both fixtures last season. He’s also created a league high of ten clear-cut chances this season.
Hazard Vs Suarez Stats
Eden Hazard’s plus point is his ability to create and score for Chelsea. Hazard is Chelsea’s top creator and scorer this season in the Premier League however this weekend Chelsea play the master of creation and goal scoring in the Premier League: Luis Suarez. Suarez has played over 300 minutes less than Hazard but has created only four chances less, has one more goal assist and has created seven more clear-cut chances.
The most telling stats for creativity are that Hazard is creating a chance every 32 minutes whilst Suarez creates one every 28 minutes and the minutes per clear-cut chances created stat where Hazard creates one every 494 minutes but Suarez creates at a league best of every 117 minutes.
When it comes to goal scoring there is no comparison here with Suarez scoring a record breaking 19 goals before the turn of the year. He’ll be looking to get to the 20 mark in the final game of the season whilst Hazard is top scorer for Chelsea with 7. Therein lies Chelsea’s problem as their strikers aren’t scoring enough goals. The stats below from Suarez are quite frightening and any supporter of any team would love to have a player like him in their team right now – especially on current form.
My prediction for this game is heavily influenced by the performance of Liverpool on Boxing Day compared to Chelsea’s fixture on the same day. Liverpool went toe-to-toe with City and were perhaps the better side – not many teams will force a groan from the Etihad faithful when stoppage time is announced. I think the suspension of Ramires could be a key factor here with Liverpool’s midfield triumvirate of Lucas, Allen and Henderson having far more mobility than Lampard and Mikel. I’m going to go for a 2-1 Liverpool win – Mourinho’s record is there to be broken.