Writer: Gavin John Day
Date:Friday November 9 2012
Although the Premier League season is now over a quarter of the way through it is still incredibly difficult to ascertain Liverpool's overall performance and predict where they will end up.
The Reds are unbeaten in their last five league matches but with three of them drawn and the wins coming against Norwich City and Reading, it is far from a scintillating run.
Brendan Rodgers' 12th placed side will be severely tested this weekend when they travel to London for a clash with high-flying Chelsea. The Blues spent lavishly this past summer, in stark contrast to the Merseysiders, and have impressed so far with a new free-flowing style built around the attacking talents of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar.
Roberto Di Matteo's team are currently second in the table; 12 points better off than Sunday's visitors. They were leading proceedings until two recent slip-ups allowed Manchester United to overtake them.
Liverpool centre-back Martin Skrtel in quotes published by Liverpoolfc.com: "They are close to the top of the table and it's going to be a tough game. Games against Chelsea are always tough and this one is going to be the same and we just hope we can get the three points.
"They have got a good team and a lot of attacking players but we will go there and try to play our game and if we can continue with the performance we gave in our last game against Newcastle and play our game with a lot of movement, a lot of passing it could be good against them."
England duo Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole look practically certain to be missing for the hosts. Lampard has been out for the past fortnight with a recurrence of an ongoing calf strain and no exact comeback date is yet known for the midfielder. Cole meanwhile is set to be absent as he continues to struggle with a hamstring injury picked up against Swansea City last weekend. Fellow Three Lions international Ryan Bertrand will therefore once again provide cover for a left-back recognised as one of the world's best in his position. Club captain John Terry will be pushing for a start after surprisingly being left on the bench in Europe this past midweek - Gary Cahill the man most likely to make way. Elsewhere the team largely picks itself although recent acquisition Victor Moses will be hopeful of featuring from the start after scoring in the past two games. If the former Wigan Athletic winger was to be included then one of Mata, Hazard or Oscar will need to make way. Former Liverpool star Fernando Torres is currently the side's joint top scorer with seven goals.
The Spanish playmaker has been an integral part of the Blues' side this season and was named the Premier League's player of the month for October. Two goals in the recent derby win over Tottenham Hotspur have helped to put Mata level with Torres at the top of Chelsea's scoring charts. The 24-year-old also has a number of assists to his name which is hardly surprising given his creativity and abundance of technical ability. Despite a considerable outlay of £23.5m to sign him from Valencia in August 2011, Mata has more than proved his worth and developed into one of the world's best players to boot.
Regular number one Pepe Reina is touch-and-go to be fit after missing the past five fixtures with a hamstring injury sustained whilst on international duty. Even if available, whether or not the Spaniard regains his position between the sticks is debatable with understudy Brad Jones impressing in his absence. Ex-Chelsea Full-back Glen Johnson is more likely to be available again for the Reds after a similar period on the sidelines. Expect a host of changes from the Europa League defeat in Russia on Thursday night with the glut of big names who were left behind all returning to the fold. The list includes Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez. The only players to feature with a possible chance of retaining their positions are Suso and Jonjo Shelvey, who was announced in his second consecutive England squad yesterday. The 20-year-old midfielder may well lose out to Turkish international Nuri Sahin however. Out of the club's long-term injury victims, Lucas Leiva is now back in light training and could be available by the end of the month.
The Uruguayan striker showed again last weekend why he is one of the world's biggest talents. His sublime solo effort in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle United was amazing and there are few players in world football who could have executed the finish in such devastating fashion. Unfortunately however there has been little support for the 25-year-old this term and he currently has more than three times as many strikes as any other Liverpool player (10). With chances likely to be few and far between on Sunday it may well require another moment of individual brilliance from Suarez if the Reds are to get something out of the encounter.
• Liverpool and Chelsea have met 164 times in their respective histories and Liverpool currently hold the upper hand with 74 wins to Chelsea's 57 and 33 draws. Liverpool have scored a total of 251 goals compared to a tally of 229 for the Blues.
• Liverpool have a great recent record against their southern rivals having lost only two of their last 11 Premier League games against Chelsea and winning the last four in a row. The Blues did of course beat Liverpool 2-1 in May's FA Cup final however.
• Brendan Rodgers has presided over Liverpool's worst start to a league season in 20 years. The Anfield club have won just twice in their ten matches to date.
• Chelsea may have impressed going forward this season but defensively they have been rather suspect at times. In addition to conceding heavily in the League Cup and Europe, Di Matteo's men have now gone five games without a clean sheet in the Premier League, their worst such spell since January.
• Fernando Torres scored five goals in four Premier League games against Chelsea while playing for Liverpool, but has netted none in the three occasions he has faced the Merseysiders since his transfer.
Experienced official Howard Webb will be the man in the middle for this match. The 41-year-old, who was awarded an MBE for services to football in 2011, has taken charge of 9 games so far this season and shown 36 yellow and 1 red card in the process. The South Yorkshire based referee was England's representative at this summer's European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine. His assistants will be Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey whilst the fourth official is Andre Marriner.
Given the host of attacking talent at Chelsea's disposal it is hard to see them failing to score during the 90 minutes. It is highly likely therefore that Liverpool will also need to register at some stage to claim even a share of the spoils. Unfortunately with our deficiencies in the attacking third it is hard to see this happening and certainly not to the frequency needed to back another Liverpool victory at Stamford Bridge. With the Pensioners desperate to get back to winning ways in their title challenge, they will start as clear favourites but I have a feeling we may rise to the occasion and give them a tough game. Vital Liverpool predicts a 1-1 draw.
Liverpool - Premier League vs. Wigan Athletic at Anfield on Saturday 17th November 2012, kick off 3.00pm.
Chelsea - Premier League vs. West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Saturday 17th November 2012, kick off 3.00pm.
So that's what we think, how about you? Let us know your thoughts and predictions for the game below or vote in our poll to the right...
Click here to read our interview with a Chelsea fan
Click here to read former Red Mark Lawrenson's prediction
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Date:Friday November 9 2012
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