Of the four English sides playing in the Champions League group stages, two lost in the first game week this mid-week. Although both Liverpool and Chelsea had reached the group stages because they won European titles last season, they began their European campaign in 2019-20 on a losing note. Liverpool lost away to Napoli, while Chelsea perished against Valencia at home. This weekend on Sunday evening, the two giants of England are back to playing English Premier League and face up against each other at Stamford Bridge. The two sides have already played a match this season as they met in Istanbul to fight for the European Super Cup, which was won by the Reds in a penalty shootout.
The Istanbul game ended all square after 90 minutes. Frank Lampard’s side will welcome such a result on Sunday, especially given the form of their visitors. Chelsea are blowing hot and cold right now as shown by their immense win (2-5) against Wolves at Molineux last weekend. But then at home against Valencia, they slipped to an unexpected loss. The loss in the midweek also compounded Chelsea’s injury misery as the brilliant Mason Mount limped off the pitch during the game. An unsure midfield and young attackers such as Tammy Abraham, have led Chelsea to shoot from far in the Premier League, allowing opponents to put in a lot of blocks and saves against already low-xG shots. Frank Lampard will try hard to overcome that challenge against Liverpool.
But Liverpool are one of the toughest sides in the Premier League for Chelsea to go closer before shooting. A defence comprised of Virgil van Djik and Joel Matip is difficult to get past or get closer to the goal. However, Liverpool’s defence has leaked far more goals this season, than the lofty standards they set themselves last season allow for. But, on the other hand, Liverpool do not have too many problems. Even though the famous Salah – Firmino – Mane combination had an off-day against Napoli, one can expect hem to bounce back at Stamford Bridge. Jurgen Klopp will hope they do, as Sunday is a good opportunity for Liverpool to play a slightly weakened (due to transfer ban and injuries) Chelsea and still get away with a win, which will keep the Reds at least five points ahead of Manchester City.
- Chelsea have won just one of their last nine Premier league meetings with Liverpool (D5 L3), beating them 1-0 in May 2018. However, having won just one of their first 16 Premier League away games against Chelsea (D4 L11), Liverpool have won 5 of their last 11 (W5 D3 L3).
- In all competitions, Chelsea have only failed to score in one of their last 20 meetings with Liverpool, in a 0-2 defeat at Anfield last season. Also, if you want to pick a side to beat the table toppers on any day, it is Chelsea, as the Blues have beaten the side starting the day top of the Premier League on 18 occasions, 3 more than the next best.
- Liverpool have lost just once in their last 44 Premier League games (W36 D7 L1) and are unbeaten in last 22 (W18 D4), their longest such run in PL history. In fact, Liverpool last went 23 unbeaten in the league in November 1990.
- Chelsea have only suffered one defeat in their last 24 PL games at Stamford Bridge (W13 D10 L1) and have avoided losing in their last 11 games at home (W6 D5).
Alonso has dual importance for Chelsea in this game. He is first and foremost the defender who will have to make sure attacks do not start from Liverpool’s right flank, most likely by shadowing Mohammed Salah. He is good in the air winning 55.6% of his defensive aerials. This will help him against Salah especially. But Alonso’s prowess is not limited to defending only. Every game (90 minutes) he indulges in at least one shot and one key pass. He gained an assist for himself in the demolition of Wolves last weekend. Alonso’s importance to Chelsea is also reflected in his xGBuildup90 (Total xG of every possession except shots and key passes), which is 1.15 for Alonso. This means that even if he does not shoot or create chances, just by being involved for 90 minutes, Alonso can contribute almost 1.15 goals per game. Big reason for Lampard to stick with the Spaniard at the right-back.
Liverpool were slightly unlucky to return goal-less and pointless from Napoli. They did shoot more than the hosts and the primary attacker as is the case these days, was Sadio Mane. Mane is also chasing a personal record – he has scored 49 goals in 97 Premier League games for Liverpool. Should he score on Sunday, he’d become the 10th player for Liverpool to reach the landmark, more than any other player. He has a good chance of scoring with xG90 of 0.44 and xA90 of 0.34, making the probability of Mane being involved in a goal in 90 minutes at 78%. Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that the Senegal international can score a goal or two quickly against the Blues to put Liverpool in command.
For the Blues, N’Golo Kante could return after his injury as he was involved in training against Valencia. Fitness for Callum Hodson-Odoi and Reece James is improving but they will not be ready to play on Sunday. Mason Mount limped off the pitch during the game against Valencia and is a major doubt for Sunday, possibly opening up a spot for Pulisic. The likely lineup for Chelsea Kepa; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Christensen, Tomori, Alonso; Jorgiinho, Kovacic; Willian, Pulisic; Abraham.
For Liverpool, Alisson, Nathaniel Clyne, Divock Origi and Naby Keita will remain out of the squad with their respective injuries despite all of them improving in the last week. Robertson overcame a slight knock to start on Tuesday night and should be back fit for Sunday. Klopp has a happy problem as the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joe Gomez and Georginio Wijnaldum are vying to get back into the side. The likely lineup for Liverpool could be – Adrian; Trent, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson; Mane, Firmino, Salah.
Chelsea could be playing at Stamford Bridge but there is a significant gulf between the depleted Blues side and the rampant Reds. On Sunday night, we can expect that this gulf will lead to a sixth straight win for Liverpool.
Chelsea 1 – 2 Liverpool