The new year is usually a time for new beginnings and new resolutions, but as far as football’s concerned we’re still in the middle of the same old season, and that means we’re still dealing with the same old concerns and issues. First and foremost of those is COVID-19 of course, though this game looks to be going ahead at the moment.
We do have one new thing to acknowledge, and that’s the official introduction of safe standing in the Premier League, with Chelsea one of five clubs participating in the trial period. This game is the first to feature the actual use of the rail seats that were installed over the summer in The Shed and the Matthew Harding Lower.
With Manchester City winning again today with yet another late goal and some favorable refereeing decisions, the title looks quite out of reach already. But second place (and by extension, the top four) is very much on the line, and three points here would go a long way towards keeping our place in it secure — with league games against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur to follow later this month.
Date / Time: Sunday, January 2, 2022, 16.30 GMT; 11:30am EST; 10pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Anthony Taylor (LOL); Paul Tierney (VAR) — speaking of same old BS, we’ve won just 1 of the last 7 and just 3 of the last 13 matches Taylor has refereed. Taylor was also in charge of the 1-1 at Anfield earlier this year, where he sent off Reece James for an alleged handball.
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); USA, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport MaXimo 1, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere — NBC’s coverage in the United States will now be mostly on USA (Network) with NBCSN going dark on January 1. Streaming options remains unchanged, but expect more games on Peacock in the future.
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: Romelu Lukaku’s talking has been all the talk, but our prodigal son does have a goal in each of his last two appearances, since coming back from injury and then isolation. We also have Kai Havertz and Timo Werner back in training now, though the latter especially will take some time to get up to speed after a symptomatic bout with COVID-19.
There’s also good news in Thiago Silva returning, though the situation is far less rosy at wing-back, where Ben Chilwell’s been ruled out for the season and Reece James for the next two months. Christian Pulisic deputized at right wing-back midweek.
Two more points dropped on Wednesday mean that Chelsea finished December with just 12 points won from the 21 available. Four of our last five home games in the league have been 1-1 draws (and the fifth a last-gasp win against Leeds United).
Liverpool team news: The Reds have a game-in-hand after their Boxing Day match was postponed due to COVID cases at Leeds United, but Liverpool themselves aren’t clear of infection either, with head coach Jürgen Klopp and three of his staff not traveling. Three as-yet unnamed players are also isolating, with goalkeeper Alisson and striker Roberto Firmino rumored to be two of the three. If Alisson can’t go, it’ll be League Cup hero Caoimhín Kelleher in goal since Adrián is out.
Meanwhile, Thiago Alcântara, Takumi Minamino, and Divock Origi are also injured, and Andy Robertson is suspended. But Liverpool still have the likes of Mo Salah, Sadio Mané, Diogo Jota, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, and they will certainly want to make up for their lackluster performance in the shock 1-0 defeat against undermanned Leicester City on Sunday. That game was their first defeat in over a month, and the first time they failed to score a goal in pretty much forever.
Salah and Mané (and Naby Këita), just like Chelsea’s Édouard Mendy, will be off to the Africa Cup of Nations after this match, making it an even more important three points, for both teams.
View from the enemy: The Liverpool Offside
Previously: Liverpool had won four in a row in the league against us before Tuchel’s Chelsea went to Anfield in March last season to break that streak and win, 1-0. The aforementioned 1-1 in late August saw Kai Havertz score from a corner before Salah equalized from the spot before a heroic defensive effort from 10-man Chelsea kept it at a point each.