January has not exactly been a good month for Liverpool and Jürgen Klopp. Since beating Manchester City 1-0 on December 31st, they’ve won just one out of eight, and even that was in a replay against fourth division Plymouth Argyle.
After the City win, Klopp sounded rather triumphant.
“...[Chelsea] are in an outstanding run and have won 13 games in a row already - not bad, but can you imagine how annoying it is when you’ve won 13 games in a row and there’s still one team only six points behind?”
-Jürgen Klopp; source: Liverpool FC
Two draws and a loss in the three games since puts Liverpool ten points behind Chelsea. Meanwhile, they had fallen out of both the League Cup and the FA Cup in the space of three days, both losses coming at home, part of a three-match losing streak at Anfield for the Reds. They have not lost four in a row at home since the 1923-24 season. Annoying, indeed.
That said, we all know Liverpool are better than this and they won’t go on losing forever, especially not at home. Just as they may be guilty of playing down to the levels of Plymouth or Wolves, they are more than capable of playing up to the level (or even above the level) or Manchester City or Chelsea. In fact, Liverpool have yet to lose another top six team.
All of that makes Liverpool a very dangerous proposition today, and Conte’s right to be wary. While Chelsea are a much-changed team since the 2-1 loss to the Reds at Stamford Bridge many moons ago, this will a tough task, to say the least.
Date / Time: Tuesday, January 31, 2017, 20:00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool, England
Referee: Mark Clattenburg — this is only the second Chelsea game for Clatts this season; the first was our 3-0 win over Burnley back in August.
Forecast: Rainy, wintry, not very pleasant at all
On TV: BT Sport 1 (UK); NBCSN, NBC Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Universo Now (USA); Star Sports (India)
Liverpool team news: The Reds have played no less than three games more than Chelsea this month, thanks a two-legged League Cup semifinal and a replay in the FA Cup fourth round as well. Combined with a reduced squad and a few key injuries, it’s not been happy times for Klopp & Co. Sadio Mané’s absence has proven especially important — Liverpool have rushed their Senegalese star back from their quarterfinal exit at the Africa Cup of Nations, but he may not be quite ready to play from the start just yet.
Right back Nathaniel Clyne could be another key absence, with youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold expected to deputize. Forever young Adam Lallana should be back however. Roberto Firmino will be available as well following a court date change for his drink-driving hearing.
For Liverpool, this is a must win, not just to keep the title race alive in theory, but to keep pace with the rest of the contenders for the top four. Arsenal, Spurs, City, and United are all expected to collect easy wins during this mid-week round.
View from the enemy: The Liverpool Offside
Chelsea team news: For Chelsea, this week could prove crucial as well, with a home game against Arsenal coming up after this one. Back-to-back losses in September to the same two opponents kickstarted this whole 3-4-3 revolution, back-to-back wins now would all but confirm Chelsea as champions. Incidentally, Chelsea are guaranteed to remain top even if we lose twice more — thank to Chelsea being almost perfect against teams outside the top six — but it’s important to maintain momentum with at least a few points collected.
Unlike Liverpool, Chelsea have neither injury nor availability concerns and Conte should be able to roll with a fully rested, fully first-choice lineup after the mass-rotation over the weekend against Brentford in the FA Cup.
Previously: Chelsea have won just one of the last six against Liverpool. Last time we came to Anfield, we had to settle for a 1-1 draw. Eden Hazard scored a rather wonderful goal; that’s something we could certainly use from him today.