This will be the first of three dead rubber matches for new champions Chelsea after they secured the Premier League title, but knowing Jose Mourinho, top 4 hopefuls Liverpool cannot expect any favours from the Blues. Brendan Rodgers’ side need to win at Stamford Bridge if they are to have any chance of finishing fourth, and they will give their best to take advantage of the situation the opposition are in.
As soon as the season started, everybody could see that Chelsea were the main contenders for the Premier League trophy and the Blues in turn shown incredible consistency to win the coveted title with three games to spare. The team did fail to live up to the potential on other fronts, but the first league trophy since 2010 has turned this season into a success. All that’s left now is to negotiate another three league fixtures before the campaign is officially wrapped up, and Chelsea’s rivals Manchester United, for one, will be hoping the Blues continue with strong performances as they are still in the race with Liverpool for the final CL berth. Much has been made of Jose Mourinho’s decision to allow his players to take up to four days of rest after securing the title, and there is definitely a danger that some of them will be already thinking about the summer holidays, even if the Portuguese manager will be eager to avoid that happening. It also remains to be seen whether Mourinho will make some changes to his starting line-up, but chances are we will not see a second-string side facing Liverpool. Diego Costa and Oscar have been ruled out, but Ramires could return from illness and Loic Remy appears to be back to full fitness.
Even if Liverpool’s hopes of achieving Champions League qualification are not over yet, the reality is the Reds have missed their chance to climb into the Premiership top 4. Back to back losses to Manchester United and Arsenal all but ended their top 4 bid, but that was only the start of their worries. Liverpool were also eliminated from the FA Cup by Aston Villa, meaning that what looked like a promising season quickly turned into a major disappointment. Having ended a three-match winless run by defeating relegation-threatened QPR last weekend, the Reds sit four points behind Manchester United with three games to go, meaning they won’t have much to hope for unless they can beat new champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. That is clearly easier said than done given team’s current form, and the visitors can only hope the Blues will not be fully focused on the match. The likes of Mamadou Sakho, Daniel Sturridge, Mario Balotelli and Jon Flanagan continue to miss out, but Rickie Lambert should keep his place in the side after impressing against QPR last weekend.
Even if Chelsea are unlikely to be as focused as they have been throughout the season, they cannot be expected to roll out for Liverpool, who continue to struggle for form. We should, therefore, see a nervy affair at Stamford Bridge that is unlikely to be too entertaining.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 3/4
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