Liverpool and Anfield have seen many memorable Wednesday nights of football. But, the night of July 22, 2020 is going to be memorable because of an unprecedented reason. After being crowned Premier League Champions several weeks back, the Reds will receive the trophy at Anfield on Wednesday night, after their last home game of the campaign. But, that would not mean that the game before the presentation ceremony will be a formality. It can never be a formality when Chelsea visit Liverpool. The Blues are not in a position to induce a slip this time, but that does not mean that they will be visiting just to applaud the Champions. Frank Lampard’s men have a Champions League spot to secure and Jurgen Klopp’s side have to ensure that they end their home campaign as strongly as they started it.
Liverpool come into this game having blown up the chance of reaching 100 points in the league points tally. The chance to break Manchester City’s record tally from two years ago is gone as well. The Reds’ 1-2 loss at Emirates against Arsenal last Wednesday was enough for that. It is clear that Klopp’s men have taken their foot off the pedal slightly at least, perhaps justifiably so. However, they can still make a statement of sorts by beating Chelsea and keeping their home record intact. In their last home game against Burnley, they were held to a draw, so they are no longer chasing 19 home wins in a season. However, no side has yet left with 3 points from Anfield and that is a record that Klopp and his men will be keen to maintain. A win over Chelsea is also going to be a statement of intent to one of the sides that can actually challenge Liverpool for the title next season.
For Frank Lampard’s side, the weekend just gone by could not have been better. Not only did Chelsea manage to beat Manchester United in the FA Cup Semifinal on Sunday evening, but just a few hours ago, their favorite ex-manager Jose Mourinho had done a huge favor for them by leading Tottenham to a 3-0 victory over Leicester. Leicester’s loss leaves them one point behind Chelsea and fighting for a Champions League spot with only one game to play. Chelsea have to win at least one of their remaining two games – they host Wolves after Wednesday night at Merseyside – to ensure Champions League football next season. That would be ample reason for them to be up for it on Wednesday night. Chelsea also have been one of the stronger visitors to Anfield and Lampard will be keen to keep that record up..
- The Blues’ record against the Reds has been great even recently when the two sides have been relatively moving in opposite directions. Chelsea have only lost one of their last nine away games in all competitions against Liverpool (W3 D5). But, Liverpool have won their last two Premier League games against Chelsea, as many as they had in their previous 13 against the Blues (D7 L4).
- A meeting between these two footballing goliaths does not augur well for the home side generally. Between 1992-93 and 2011-12, 63% of the Premier League games between these two sides were won by the home side (25/40). Since then, the home side has been victorious in just three of the 15 subsequent Premier League meetings between Liverpool and Chelsea (20%).
- Having said that beating Liverpool at Anfield is easier said than done. They are unbeaten in 58 Premier League home games, winning 17 of their 17 at Anfield so far this season. If they avoid defeat here, it will be the ninth time they’ve remained unbeaten at home across an entire top-flight campaign, three more than any other side.
- But Chelsea also like a tough fight. They have won 18 of their 44 Premier League games against sides starting the day top of the table, more than any other side in the competition. Meanwhile, only Manchester United (44% – 15/34) have a higher win rate in such games than the Blues.
- Liverpool’s results since being crowned Champions will also encourage the Blues. The Reds have dropped more points in the five games since becoming Premier League Champions (8 – W2 D1 L2) than they had in their previous 40 matches in the competition (7 – W37 D2 L1).
Virgil van Djik
These past two seasons, a Liverpool loss has been rare and on top of that a Liverpool loss due to an error or poor performance from the Reds’ rock in defence – Virgil van Djik has been rarer. However, the Dutchman was culpable of an error on last Wednesday night as Liverpool succumbed to their second loss since the restart. One can be sure that van Djik will be eager to make amends a week later against another London outfit. Not only is he the leading defender in the Premier League in stats such as tackles won (76.7%) and aerial duels won (77%), he is key in starting great attacks for his team as well. This is borne out by his xGBuildup90 (Total xG of every possession of the player excluding key passes and shots) of 0.39. His aerial ability will also be useful to the Reds upfront as he has shown in his 4 goals thus far.
Pulisic has scored 8 goals and provided 3 assists for Chelsea in a total of 23 appearances, which means that he is averaging a goal contribution every other appearance. This borne out by his xG90 and xA90 numbers of 0.47 and 0.20 respectively, which indicates that he should be contributing two goals every three games. Since the restart he has already scored 3 and assisted 1. A positive performance from Pulisic will go a long way in deciding if Chelsea can secure a point or three at Anfield or not.
Joel Matip and Jordan Henderson are out for the Premier League champions, while Dejan Lovren and James Milner are doubts. However, as Jurgen Klopp has made clear, at least his captain will be present to lift the trophy at Anfield on Wednesday. Klopp might be tempted to field his best available XI just to make a statement of intent and also to arrest the slide in form that Liverpool have witnessed recently. In the midfield, Naby Keita might expect to start ahead of Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Chelsea might miss N’Golo Kante, who was not fit to take field against Manchester United on Sunday. While Lampard would prefer to stick with the side that defeated United, fitness issues might force his hand. Pulisic is expected back in the side, which means that Mason Mount can start in the midfield.
Given the occasion – Liverpool being handed the Premier League trophy for the first time in their history, one can expect Liverpool’s performance to be in line with their recent games – just a tad bit less focused. For a side like Chelsea, that much would be enough for them to return home without losing on Wednesday night.
Liverpool 1 – 1 Chelsea