Chelsea’s Champions League ambitions will come under further scrutiny when they face a difficult trip to Anfield to meet Liverpool on Sunday.
Chelsea are in the box seat to take third place in the Premier League, and the accompanying automatic Champions League place, sitting one point clear of fourth-placed Arsenal with a game in hand over their rivals.
But with fixtures to come against Liverpool, Manchester United, Spurs and Everton, Rafa Benitez’s side face an anxious run home before their European fate is finally decided.
The Blues made a welcome return to form on Wednesday with a 3-0 triumph over Fulham at Craven Cottage, with David Luiz’s thunderbolt from distance to open the scoring a highlight.
That ended a run of two defeats on the trot for Chelsea, who lost the second leg of their Europa League tussle to Rubin Kazan (but progressed on aggregate) before being beaten 2-1 by Manchester City in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Liverpool, meanwhile, do not have much to play for over their final five matches of the season – with a Champions League berth a long shot and even a spot in the Europa League looking unlikely.
Brendan Rodgers’ team are in seventh spot, but six points behind cross-town rivals Everton, and they have looked like a side that have downed tools in their past two matches – goalless draws against West Ham and Reading.
The last time the two sides met Luis Suarez scored late on to salvage Liverpool a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in November, after John Terry opened the scoring for the hosts.
Oriol Romeu will be out for Chelsea with a long-term knee injury, while Gary Cahill (knee), Ashley Cole (hamstring) and Marko Marin (thigh) all missed the Fulham match.
For Liverpool, Joe Allen (shoulder), Fabio Borini (shoulder) and Martin Kelly (knee) are unavailable for selection.