It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since Chelsea last beat Liverpool, but despite the overwhelming difference in Premier League finishes and titles between the sides over the past few years, the reds are entering their home match against the exiting Champions League winners as favorites.
Sometimes, the difference in the table doesn’t make the difference – Chelsea are 11 points and three positions above Liverpool, not to mention a game in hand left to play, but the recent record does. The teams drew their first encounter at Stamford Bridge this season, Luis Suarez equalizing to John Terry’s opening goal. This was the first time Chelsea avoided a loss against the Reds after four consecutive league defeats and have lost six of their last nine matches against the always disappointing Liverpool, who haven’t finished in the top 4 since Rafa Benitez was their manager in 2008-2009.
Benitez has his team in a good run of results, not including their not-too-surprising exit in the FA Cup semifinal against Manchester City. He has a pretty full lineup, although Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole aren’t 100% and it’ll be interesting to see if he chooses to start with them, but it’s hard to say that a match at Anfield, where Chelsea have won only once in their last five visits, is time for rotations.
Liverpool are going through a rough patch at the moment, drawing 0-0 twice against inferior teams (West Ham and Reading), home and away. Luis Suarez is going through a scoring drought, not finding the net over the last 429 minutes, but Liverpool can’t complain when you see Fernando Torres not scoring a Premier League in 907 minutes of football. However, Suarez, still the Premier League’s leading scorer, is the more important to his team of the two.
Suarez gets his chances, but he needs a good day from Daniel Sturridge, who will surely be quite amped up to play against his former team. Sturridge becoming a threat and commanding more than one set of eyes on him is what gives Suarez more freedom to do his thing, while Philippe Coutinho making his move from left to the middle is another thing Liverpool should hope will work more than once or twice during the match.
Predictions – Chelsea have an impressive defensive record in recent matches, but they’re not likely to be too defensive against Liverpool, which suits the Reds just fine at Anfield, where they struggle when teams, even the best in the league, don’t come to play open football. One of the strikers will start scoring, and Suarez is the more likely one. In an up & down season for Brendan Rodgers and his players, it’s the turn of the good result to come, and their advantage in the middle of the park with Gerrard, Lucas and Henderson should be the decisive factor.