If you had told me in the summer that at the halfway point of the season Liverpool and Chelsea would be level on points, separated by just goal difference, I would’ve been absolutely ecstatic. After all, we had been chasing the Reds for the past five years, trying to close the not-so-proverbial gap to them and Manchester City at the top the Premier League. We played Liverpool as close as possible in two cup finals last year, and surely this was the year we made that step forward.
We do indeed begin the second half of the season level on points with Liverpool (who do have a match in hand), but instead of fighting it out at the top of the charts, we’re all mired in midtable mediocrity.
That said, a win would vault either team to just a couple points out of fifth place (Tottenham), and level on points with sixth place Fulham. Fortunes can change quickly in football.
Date / Time: Saturday, January 21, 2023, 12.30 GMT; 7:30am EST; 6pm IST
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool, England
Referee: Michael Oliver (on pitch); John Brooks (VAR)
Forecast: Freezing and windy, just like Vox Media’s heart
On TV: BT Sport 1 (UK); none (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport Premier League (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); Peacock (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Liverpool team news: The Reds went winless in their first three league games before smacking Bournemouth 9-0. They then proceeded to win just one of their next four games. And that sort of inconsistency has carried on ever since, dropping Liverpool well out of the title race and even leading to some surely premature questions about Jurgen Klopp’s future as manager.
So what happened?
That question probably needs an answer we can’t do justice in a sentence or two, but similarly to Chelsea, Liverpool have suffered several key injuries (Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota especially, joined by Virgil van Dijk and Roberto Firmino at the moment as well), while many of their other key players are having subpar seasons or are starting to get a bit long in the tooth (or have simply left, like Sadio Mane). That’s the trouble with dynasties, it’s really hard to move on and cater to the next generation until it’s too late.
Big summer signing Darwin Nunez hasn’t been Haaland-esque while big winter signing Cody Gakpo, fresh off his star turn at the World Cup, is still getting used to his surroundings. But speaking of those surroundings, Liverpool have lost just one game all season at Anfield in any competition, and that sort of home-field advantage isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Chelsea starting lineup: We’re turning the clock back to 2003 and seemingly signing a new player every day — Noni Madueke, come on down! — but fixing the team will presumably take a bit more than splashing the cash on any and all available wingers out there. Still, with Mykhailo Mudryk set for his debut and Joao Felix set to return soon from his suspension, things could get super fun super soon in Chelsea Blue.
Whether that starts this weekend is a bit less certain. The 1-0 win over Crystal Palace was obviously welcome, but we will need more than the occasional three points keep spirits high and vibes positive. We do have two weeks off after this game to settle and integrate everybody — and hopefully start welcoming back some of our injured masses as well.
Those masses remain as populous as ever. Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Wesley Fofana, N’Golo Kante, Raheem Sterling, Christian Pulisic, Denis Zakaria, Edouard Mendy, and Armanda Broja are all making progress in their respective recoveries, but remains weeks, if not (many) months out.
Previously: The game scheduled for mid-September has been indefinitely postponed after The Queen’s passing, so this is our first meeting since the back-to-back scoreless domestic finals last year, both of which we lost in a penalty shootout. In fact, we drew all four of our meeting last season, but we did win here the season prior to that, on a solitary Mason Mount goal (though Timo Werner had one ruled out for an absolute joke of an offside as well). That was our first win at Anfield since 2014.