Had Chelsea defeated Sunderland they would be in a position to climb to the Premier League summit by winning at Anfield, but Jose Mourinho instead plans to field a weakened side as he has one eye on the second leg against Atletico Madrid. As a result, Liverpool have a glorious opportunity to make a giant step towards their first league trophy since 1990.
Having finished the previous campaign in 7th place, Liverpool were not even mentioned in the same breath as the Premier League title contenders, with club chiefs hoping the Reds might just sneak into the top 4. Nevertheless, Brendan Rodgers’ charges kept improving as the season unfolded and having produced some stunning attacking performances in the process, nobody can say they do not fully deserve the current league position. With no European distractions, the Reds were able to fully focus on their Premiership campaign, but it was the manner in which victories over England’s top sides were achieved that left everyone impressed. Liverpool have secured most wins this season by scoring a couple of goals early on and this is exactly what they will be looking to do against Chelsea. Regardless of the team Jose Mourinho sends out onto the pitch, the Reds will fancy their chances of extending their winning run to ten games and putting extra pressure on title rivals Manchester City before they face red-hot Crystal Palace. The latest reports suggest Daniel Sturridge will be back in contention, although it remains to be seen if he will be risked from the start.
Unlike their next opponents, Chelsea had to balance between their Premier League and Champions League campaigns through the season, and the Blues almost managed to stay in contention for two major titles. However, it was the unexpected home defeat to Sunderland, Jose Mourinho’s first league loss at Stamford Bridge, that changed everything. And with the Portuguese having parked the bus at Vicente Calderon to secure a goalless draw in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final, the second leg against Atletico Madrid clearly has the priority at the moment. The Special One even suggested he would field a second string line-up at Anfield in order to rest his star players for the Atletico game, although that was probably just another of his mind games meant to destabilise Liverpool ahead of what is clearly the game of the season for them. But, even if Mourinho opts to field his strongest line-up on Sunday, he will still be without Petr Cech, John Terry, Eden Hazard and Ramires, but Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah will start seeing as how they are ineligible for the Champions League.
Seeing as how they are brimming with confidence and showing no signs of slowing down, I cannot see how Liverpool can fail to win this match, especially since Chelsea will not be at full strength at Anfield. We can expect another early goal or two to set the Reds on course to tenth successive Premier League victory.
Verdict: Home win Liverpool (1)
Best Odds: 8/11
Bookmaker: William Hill