Wednesday’s clash of titans at Anfield is the highlight of midweek Premier League action as title-bidding Liverpool entertain resurgent Chelsea on home turf.
Long-serving manager Jurgen Klopp dropped a bombshell last week when he announced he would leave Anfield after nine years at the end of the season.
His decision came out of the blue amidst Liverpool’s fiercely-contested battle for Premier League supremacy with perennial champions Manchester City and last season’s runners-up Arsenal.
The Reds’ first outing since Klopp’s stunning announcement sent shockwaves throughout the football community went swimmingly, as they dismantled second-tier Norwich City 5-2 in their FA Cup tie on Sunday.
Back to Premier League action, the Merseyside powerhouse may consider Chelsea’s visit a perfect rehearsal for their upcoming showdown in the League Cup title decider.
Optimism amongst connoisseurs of action-packed football may not be at an all-time high, knowing the last seven meetings between Liverpool and Chelsea have ended level after 90 minutes.
When the two sides shared the spoils in a dramatic 1-1 draw on the opening Premier League weekend, many saw the Blues as potential candidates for the title following a nightmarish 2022/23 campaign.
However, Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been relentless in proving their doubters right in the aftermath as they commence this round in mid-table, 12 points adrift of fourth-placed Aston Villa.
Confidence stems from the fact Chelsea held Unai Emery’s side to a tepid 0-0 draw in their heavyweight FA Cup fourth-round tie last Friday to make it three clean sheets in a row across all competitions (W2, D1).
Anfield’s electrifying atmosphere forms the perfect backdrop for Klopp’s bid to join a select club of six managers to have pulled off 200 Premier League victories.
Doing so would see Liverpool halt the longest streak of draws between two top-flight clubs in English football history and, more importantly, consolidate their position at the top of the pile.
Sat top of the Premier League standings at the start of this matchday, the Reds have built an aura of invincibility in their backyard by racking up an eye-catching 15 wins in their 17 home games this season (D2).
Taking other competitions out of the equation, Liverpool’s record of eight wins and two draws from ten Premier League home matches is only second to Villa’s 28-point tally (W9, D1).
As if Liverpool’s telling home form isn’t intimidating enough, visiting Chelsea must address their travel sickness to become the first side to waltz away from Anfield with three points in 2023/24.
Except for a nail-biting 3-2 win at top-flight newcomers Luton Town towards the end of 2023, the Blues have lost five of their last six fixtures on hostile turf.
Despite arresting a four-game losing away league streak at Kenilworth Road, defensive frailties marred Pochettino’s fourth win in ten Premier League games in charge of Chelsea (D1, L5).
The visitors have leaked goals at an alarming rate outside Stamford Bridge, conceding at least twice on their last five Premier League trips, which is ominous given the quality of their hosts’ frontline.
Liverpool’s formidable firepower will lack a crucial element on Wednesday as Mohamed Salah is still recovering from an injury he picked up during Egypt’s busted Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign.
Wataru Endo is still in contention for Asian Cup glory after Japan secured a knockout berth.
Stefan Bajcetic, Thiago Alcantara and Kostas Tsimikas are unavailable due to injuries, but Andy Robertson, Dominik Szoboszlai and Trent Alexander-Arnold are back to the fold.
Reece James, Lesley Ugochukwu, Wesley Fofana, Robert Sanchez, Marc Cucurella, Romeo Lavia and Trevoh Chalobah are still out injured for Chelsea.
Nicolas Jackson is part of the Senegal squad trying to defend the AFCON title, while Christopher Nkunku and Malo Gusto are back in training but are unlikely to make the cut.
Liverpool potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ibrahima Konate, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson; Curtis Jones, Alexis Mac Allister, Ryan Gravenberch; Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz.
Chelsea potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Djordje Petrovic; Axel Disasi, Benoit Badiashile, Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell; Moises Caicedo, Enzo Fernandez; Cole Palmer, Conor Gallagher, Raheem Sterling; Armando Broja.
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