While many try and focus on the biting incident and having Luis Suarez and Branislav Ivanovic on the same pitch, the real interest goes to what the match between Chelsea and Liverpool means to the title and Champions League spot race.
With Manchester City winning and grabbing the lead and Manchester United squeezing from behind, suddenly back to their famously frightening form, a draw won’t be something both teams are going to be happy with. Chelsea are missing Ramires due to a suspension, while Liverpool continue to miss Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Jose Enrique and now also John Flanagan, which means Aly Cissokho continues to start at left back for the Reds.
If there’s one huge weakness in Brendan Rodgers’ lineup, Cissokho has to be it. He doesn’t get much help defensively from Philippe Coutinho, and is limited and speed and game intelligence. It’s always a toss up who starts for Mourinho on the right wing, but it’s either going to be Oscar or Willian, who tend to pull to the middle anyway, while Branislav Ivanovic continues to fill the right back position he is ill-suited for, especially offensively.
Weaknesses for Chelsea? Their defense has been a mess this season (Liverpool have a problem as well in set pieces, especially with Martin Skrtel), and Frank Lampard can’t be an effective part of a dual midfield. John Obi Mikel is a very good defensive midfielder as long as the ball isn’t at his feet, and Liverpool, if they play in the same way like in the Manchester City match (which they should) will have an easy time finding space behind Lampard and putting that fragile defense at risk.
Luis Suarez didn’t score against Manchester City, but he still has a chance to finish the calendar year with 30 goals (or more), something that’s been done only 7 times in Premier League history. Chelsea do not have the quality in the back to keep him without a shot at goal, and even if they do, it will come at the expense of leaving Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho open, who have some amending to do after their horrendous one on one misses from the loss at Manchester City.
Prediction – Chelsea have won only twice against Liverpool in their last 13 league meetings. Liverpool will see a Chelsea that at least initially tries to press high before deciding which way to go. The Reds have the quality to score, but not to shut out Chelsea, which seems to us like a good recipe for a draw.