The narrative is firmly on Liverpool’s side. Not that the league leaders would need any such help.
Jürgen Klopp announced last week that he’s leaving the team at the end of the season, after nearly a decade in charge. Thus begins his farewell tour. It’s already dominating the coverage, but in terms of the football, they very much will be targeting all the trophies, all the victories, for one final time before whoever picks up the pieces and inevitably fails to live up to expectations. (You don’t want to be the guy following a legend; you want to be the guy following the guy following the legend.)
We have a wonderful chance to be the fly in their celebratory ointment — especially with the League Cup final in a few weeks, but raining a bit on their parade today would be glorious as well (especially as it would mean a result away from home, which we’ve failed to get in six of our last seven tries in all competitions).
Date / Time: Wednesday, January 31, 2024, 20.15 GMT; 3:15pm EST; 1:45am IST
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool
Referee: Paul Tierney (on pitch); John Brooks (VAR)
Forecast: Raining cats and dogs
On TV: TNT Sports 1 (UK); none (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport Premier League (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: discovery+ (UK); Peacock (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Liverpool team news: The Reds have dealt with a few injuries of late, but are getting healthy at the right time, and should be able to field just about their strongest lineup — including both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson as wing-backs for the first time since early October.
The one big miss is Mo Salah, who picked up a hamstring injury at the Africa Cup of Nations before seeing his Egypt shockingly eliminated in the Round of 16. Konstantinos Tsimikas, Stefan Bajčetić, Joël Matip, and the seemingly constantly injured Thiago Alcântara are out as well, while Wataru “Moisés Caicedo consolation” Endo is away with Japan at the Asian Cup.
Liverpool have lost just three games all season, and two of those were in the Europa League group stages. They’re currently riding a ten-match unbeaten run, with 26 goals to their name in that time (and just 8 conceded). They are top of the league for a reason — well, many reasons, including my fellow Hungarian, Dominik Szoboszlai being as good as advertised and as expected — and look good value for staying there until the end.
View from the enemy: The Liverpool Offside
Chelsea team news: Mauricio Pochettino is hoping to be able to call on Christopher Nkunku and Malo Gusto one again (or at least put them on the bench), and maybe even Nicolas Jackson, who may or may not be hot-footing it back from the Africa Cup of Nations after Senegal got knocked out.
Unfortunately, Levi Colwill will end up missing a second game with his oh-so-minor injury, while Reece James, Wesley Fofana, Marc Cucurella, Roméo Lavia, Lesley Ugochukwu, and Trevoh Chalobah all remain out. Robert Sánchez recently returned to light training, but he may not be getting his starting spot back from Đorđe Petrović ever again.
We will have Cesare Casadei available for the first time since recalling him from Leicester City earlier this month. The January transfer window will be into its final 24 hours when this game is played, so that could add yet another wrinkle to available personnel (though it’s looking fairly quiet on the rumor front at the moment).
Previously: Despite the gulf in class between the teams in the league in recent seasons, we have managed to play them quite close more often that not, including in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge at the start of this season, which included a debut goal for Axel Disasi. Overall, we’ve drawn seven in a row in all competitions, including the 2022 League Cup and FA Cup finals (both won by the bad guys on penalties).