With Manchester City having won the Christmas period, the closest chasing pair face off this coming Sunday, in the game of the New Years weekend.
This irregular period appears to have caused issues with both Chelsea and Liverpool, and a loss for either could well scupper any title aspirations. With the face off of these two German managers tough to call, it could be a tactical battle that engulfs Sunday’s proceedings.
Chelsea have some defensive issues, with both central pieces (Thiago Silva & Andreas Christiansen) out injured. Thiago will be assessed, but the hamstring complaint (suffered on Boxing Day) will surely mean Sunday is too soon for a return. Ben Chilwell remains sidelined and Reece James joins him on that list of unavailable players.
The Blues strength in midfield is where Chelsea will look to control Liverpool’s patterns of play. A double pivot of Ngolo Kante and either Jorginho or Mateo Kovačić is likely, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek sidelined. Up front will see the in form Romelu Lukaku supported by Mason Mount and one other. The wing back options look like Marcos Alonso on the left, with either Christian Pulisic or Hudson Odoi on the right. Timo Werner has an outside chance of appearing, after completing his isolation period.
Liverpool will arrive at Stamford Bridge with a sore head, after failing to overcome Leicester in the week. The loss to Leicester will see Jürgen Klopp’s options up for debate. Andy Robertson completes his three game suspension, therefore Kostas Tsimikas and Trent Alexander-Arnold will start at full back. Virgil Van Dijk will almost certainly start, and Ibrahima Konate will be hoping to come into the back line for Joel Matip.
The midfield area offers the most questions for Liverpool, with rotation enforced on them lately. Thiago Alcantara will surely be rushed into the team, after completing his isolation period. Fabinho will be holding the midfield, and be tasked with adding force to their middle three. The third spot is the area that could be up for grabs. Jordan Henderson continues to struggle for consistency, and was once again substituted in the week. Naby Keita will now be hoping to start, given his numerous cameos after injury, and his ability to ball carry could be tempting.
Up front will likely see Roberto Firmino installed into the front line, with his off ball work between the lines vital against stronger opposition. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota will therefore by vying to start as wide forwards, with a collective desire to eradicate any misses in the last game.
A tight and organised Chelsea side will surely look to counter their visitors. Space will be shut down, and Thomas Tuchel will look to frustrate in order to prevail. The reds will be looking to gain control of the match with a high tempo, and the midfield battle is where this game will be won and lost. The inevitable outcome could see two well coached teams cancelling each other out, and a score draw is likely.
Player to watch – Virgil Van Dijk
Chelsea 2 – 2 Liverpool