28th December 2013
Following yet another hard-fought victory, Chelsea host in-form Liverpool looking to prove their title ambitions and finally record a Premier League win against a top 4 side. The Reds, on the other hand, can be encouraged by the solid performance at Etihad even if the 2-1 defeat ended their four-match winning streak.
While many are quick to congratulate Jose Mourinho for keeping Chelsea in the title race, I am of the opinion that his side have been incredibly fortunate to remain near the top of the standings. The Blues never really hit the ground running and have been grinding out results from the very start to the season, and even if that is a good quality to have, chances are Lady Luck will soon turn her back on them. Chelsea did well to hold both Manchester United and Arsenal to goalless draws on the road, while recording a lucky win over Manchester City in the opening exchanges, but their recent performances are enough to suggest that Liverpool could prove a tough nut to crack. Jose Mourinho must have been encouraged by back to back clean sheets against Arsenal and Swansea, and chances are he will be looking to keep things tight at the back against the Reds, especially with red-hot Luis Suarez on the other side. At the same time, team’s attacking problems are unlikely to end any time soon, and that is why we should expect a low-scoring game at Stamford Bridge. Banned midfielder Ramires is likely to be sorely missed, while the likes of Lampard, Torres, Cahil and Azpilicueta are set to be recalled.
Liverpool have clearly made tremendous progress under Brendan Rodgers and the mere fact they are still very much in the title race in spite of everything thrown their way this term speaks volumes about team’s quality and character. With Luis Suarez missing the start of the season and Steven Gerrard out of the crucial stage of the league campaign, nobody really expected the Reds to stay close to the top of the standings, but they have done brilliantly to get the most out of a difficult situation. Even if the team continue to heavily rely on magnificent Suarez, they are steadily improving in all areas, as witnessed by an impressive display at Etihad and a somewhat unfortunate defeat at the same ground where all top sides had been soundly beaten this term. The Reds have also started to show some defensive solidity and even with Simon Mignolet largely to blame for Negredo’s winner, the Belgian has proved to be a rock at the back for Brendan Rodgers’ side. All things considered, Liverpool have every reason to feel optimistic ahead of the clash at Stamford Bridge, even if Steven Gerrard, Jose Enrique, Jon Flanagan and Daniel Sturridge continue to miss out.
Another cagey affair is expected when Chelsea meet another title contenders, with neither side expected to risk too much at Stamford Bridge. And with hectic festive schedule slowly getting to the players, I believe we can rule out an entertaining clash in London.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 6/5
Bookmaker: William Hill