What a difference some consecutive wins make. Both Liverpool and Chelsea, light on form earlier in the season have found some excellent turn of gears in recent weeks, with both sides doing well to consolidate their current positions in the table (5th and 3rd respectively). Their improvement in form makes this weekend not only intriguing but significant; Liverpool will see this as a massive chance to make up ground on the top 4 in respect of points, while Chelsea will feel the importance of not allowing Manchester City to stretch further adrift in front of the title challenging pack.
Below we preview the upcoming English Premier League clash at Anfield between Liverpool and Chelsea.
Liverpool vs Chelsea Prediction and Preview
Chelsea: Chasing Seconds
The Blues have been substantially improved since the recent blip in form which featured defeats to Man City, Crystal Palace and a thrilling yet unsatisfactory 3-3 draw with Roma in the Champions League. Chelsea have won 4 on the trot in the Premier League, including a clinical win over 2nd placed Manchester United and a goal fest away to West Brom. Much of this has coincided with the return of Eden Hazard to the team; the Belgian’s creativity and flair proving invaluable to the team, as his 5 goals and 1 assist in his last 6 appearances will testify.
Chelsea may have more realistic trophy ambitions elsewhere, but Conte is unlikely to give up on catching Man City. His side will be hopeful to capitalise on another Man United slip up to officially consolidate for 2nd place. Chelsea’s form against other sides in the top 6 has beeen solid; 7 points from 12 is only undermined by their tepid draw against Arsenal, where ironically the score arguably best reflected the match. Against their favour is their midweek trip to Azerbaijan in the Champions League, but the Italian manager has both the necessity and squad to rotate his squad appropriately for a good showing vs the Reds.
Liverpool: Knocking on the door?
Liverpool’s recent improvement in form has them knocking on the outside of the top 4 table, hoping that the mixed form of Spurs and Man United will continue. The improvements are very much by design and fortune. Jurgen Klopp’s team have been strengthened by returns to the first team of playmaker Philippe Coutinho and star winger Sadio Mane. 5 clean sheets in the last 7 games gives a clear view of how the team’s tactical adjustments have been implemented successfully in the absence of being able to use transfer activity to address the issues.
That isn’t to say Liverpool aren’t fundamentally still nonetheless a flawed squad. But the recent upturn in results has done well to give the Reds some hope that a strong run into the congested December period could address the misgivings from the start of the season. Their recent form against Chelsea is promising enough; the current form and improved injury situation could mesh well with the advantage of playing their Champions League game a night earlier than Chelsea with far less distance to travel than the Blues (better Spain than Azerbaijan).
By the Numbers
In Head to Head respects, Liverpool have the overall advantage, though oddly enough, the Reds haven’t beaten Chelsea at Anfield since the 4-1 win in May 2012. A view of the recent results suggests a draw as the most likely result in the coming weekend. Chelsea’s last win over Liverpool at Anfield was a 2-1 victory in November 2014, courtesy of Diego Costa and Gary Cahill.
|January 2017||Anfield||Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea|
|September 2016||Stamford Bridge||Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool|
|May 2016||Anfield||Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea|
|October 2015||Stamford Bridge||Chelsea 1-3 Liverpool|
|May2015||Anfield||Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea|
Both of the clubs’ recent form is likely to be the best guide to what may happen in the upcoming encounter, given the form table. Only Man City can boast better form in the last 5 league games than Chelsea. Chelsea have retained their ruthless efficiency in that spell. By comparison to Liverpool, the Blues need nearly 2 less shots a game to score effectively the same amount. Both teams have improved this ratio in their recent run of form, but Liverpool’s shot quality and conversion has improved considerably more than that of Chelsea.
|Match||Shots||Goals||Shots per Goal|
|Liverpool in last 3 EPL Games||51||9||5.67|
|Chelsea in last 4 EPL Games||61||10||6.10|
Source: whoscored.com, squawka.com
With both sides showing improved attack, it will be likely up to the defensive capacities of each team to neutralise each other’s scoring prowess. In this respect, the advantages appear with Liverpool, who have not only managed to keep the shot conceded numbers lower than those of Chelsea, with considerable improvement in their recent fixtures.
|Match||Shots Conceded||Goals Conceded||Season Average Shots Conceded per Game|
|Liverpool in last 3 EPL Games||12||1||7.6|
|Chelsea in last 4 EPL Games||40||2||11.5|
Source: whoscored.com, squawka.com
Antonio Conte has had to pull some interesting strings in recent games to settle matters at Stamford Bridge. The improvement in Eden Hazard’s form, combined with subtle adjustments on a game by game basis to the system ahead of his 3 centered defenders, and the introduction of young Danish centre back Andreas Christensen have all coincided with the team’s steady improvement. Liverpool will need to ensure that they have a plan to manage Hazard, but with generally more reliable performances from the right hand side of defence from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, the Reds may well be confident of handling this.
Liverpool’s main challenge will likely to be enjoy the same extent of possession and attacking prowess they usually enjoy, given the number of highly effective disruptive weapons in the Chelsea midfield; Kante, Bakayoko and Fabregas all appear well equipped to both break up play and pick out a dangerous, quick transition pass towards the Chelsea frontline.
Chelsea’s area of focus is self explanatory, and familiar. Former Blue Mohammed Salah has been in sublime form of late, scoring all sorts of goals in varying situations for Liverpool, and Conte will need to have a particular set of directives to manage the Egyptian’s considerable pace and scoring touch. However the Italian chooses to manage this – either through flooding the midfield or his very capable defending options in Azpilicueta or Rudiger – it may well be the key route to ensuring Liverpool do not win.
Expected result and Prediction
The clash at Anfield is a very difficult one to call on this occasion. Both teams have form. Both teams are showing improvement in critically important numbers, with Liverpool showing especially healthy form. Historical head to head numbers suggest a stalemate, but they also may suggest Liverpool are due a win, given the time that has passed since they last left Anfield with the 3 points in this fixture. Liverpool also have to prove they can get good results against good teams again; bar the win over Arsenal, Liverpool have a poor record within the top 6 this season, with heavy defeats to Spurs and Man City, and an unsuccessful attempt to break an over-cautious Man United.
Chelsea have the better squad and the better midfield in particular, suggesting that Liverpool may yet not control the ball the way they’re used to doing at Anfield. The concerns with the Liverpool defence have been mitigated through tactics and changes to how the team vertically positions itself during matches, but that can only manage the risk of lower quality defensive players for so long. But that said – Liverpool are not a team that need too much of the ball to create and score goals, and Chelsea are not so likely to go to Anfield to play for a point. That both of these sides are willing to take risks suggests a few things. There will be goals, likely from both sides, and that the skillful players (Hazard, Salah, etc) will make the most favourable impression in a fascinating top 6 clash. Chelsea will also have to ask some key questions of their squad rotation; many of their first choice players will have to travel to both Azerbaijan and Merseyside, even if they don’t play much in the former fixture.
A score draw is the most plausible result. But where Chelsea are weak, Liverpool are arguably best equipped to win. A win for the Reds could well be the best outside bet, as long as their defenders don’t make the mistakes they showed vs Tottenham.