Chelsea v Liverpool
Live on Sky Sports 1
Match Odds: Chelsea [2.14], Liverpool [4.0], The Draw [3.5].
Sometimes, newly-crowned champions switch off for their remaining matches, with nothing to play for – but it’s difficult to imagine that happening with Jose Mourinho‘s Chelsea. He’ll be keen to win the title by as many points as possible, and will see a home meeting with Liverpool as a match Chelsea should win.
Mourinho is forced to cope without three players through injury. Diego Costa and Oscar are both out, while a doubt about Ramires could mean a Brazilian-born trio are all unavailable this weekend.
Mourinho didn’t seem impressed with Juan Cuadrado‘s display last weekend, but it makes sense to give the Colombian Premier League experience now there’s essentially nothing to play for, and he should start on the right flank. This could mean Willian as the number ten, with Fabregas deep in midfield – although Mourinho has tended to keep the opposition guessing with his precise line-up in recent weeks. Kurt Zouma has often been fielded in midfield, although this seems an unnecessarily defensive option in a game where Chelsea can afford to play attacking football.
Eden Hazard will continue on the left flank and Loic Remy, rather than Didier Drogba, seems most likely to start upfront.
Brendan Rodgers, on the other hand, still has something to play for. Liverpool’s hopes of finishing inside the top four are still alive after making up three points on Manchester United last weekend, and his team selection here will be particularly intriguing.
He surprisingly started Rickie Lambert upfront in the narrow 2-1 win over QPR last weekend, and while he played well and teed up Coutinho’s fine curling strike, it’s doubtful whether the English striker will continue against John Terry and Gary Cahill.
It makes more sense to attack that centre-back pairing with pace, trickery and versatile players who can change positions, which means a front three of Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana is more likely. The latter can drift inside from the right, with the other two capable of playing on either the left, or through the middle – Coutinho has been favoured in the false nine role recently, and Sterling’s dribbling might be better utilised up against Branislav Ivanovic.
Coutinho moving forward would mean Lucas Leiva coming into midfield, protecting the defence behind Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard, now into his final three games with Liverpool. The extra defensive protection could be important against Fabregas, although there’s a danger the two midfielders will play in front of each other, rather than looking to penetrate quickly. This would lead to a frustratingly slow game.
Other interesting battles include Hazard against Emre Can, now being fielded in a conventional right-back role after spells in midfield, and as part of a three-man defence. We say this every week, but Hazard’s trickery is a nightmare for opponents and it wouldn’t be surprising if Can found himself in trouble with the referee – Chelsea’s title was sealed last weekend when Hazard won a penalty for the only goal.
Another crucial player will be Remy, assuming he starts. Neither Martin Skrtel nor Dejan Lovren particularly like facing pacey players, and while Drogba remains Chelsea’s best target man, the whole team functions better with a quick, mobile player working the channels and running in behind.
Remy’s debut Chelsea campaign hasn’t been spectacular, but he’s provided some crucial goals when handed a start, and he’ll be determined to make the most of this opportunity. Around [7.4] for him to open the scoring would be a good bet.
Don’t expect many goals here, though. Nine of Chelsea’s last ten home games have seen Under 2.5 Goals, as have eight of Liverpool’s last nine. Under 2.5 Goals is trading at around [1.82], however, which is probably a little too short in a game where Chelsea might attempt to attack, with the league title already in the bag.
Back Loic Remy as First Goalscorer at [7.4]
The Betfair Trader’s View: Alan Thompson
Liverpool finished ahead of Chelsea last season by two points, but this season they trail the Premier League Champions by 22 points and as in their seven games so far against the top four sides they have managed to win just the one, against Manchester City at Anfield 2-1.
Chelsea again have been excellent at Stamford Bridge all season, where they are undefeated, having conceded only seven league goals, kept 11 clean sheets and scored in every fixture. Only Swansea City have managed to breach their defence more than once and they ended up losing 4-2.
In recent times Liverpool have a very decent head-to-head record against Chelsea, home and away the Blues have won only three of the last nine meetings. However, those three wins have come in the last three clashes, two of which were at Anfield and Chelsea scored two goals in each game. When Liverpool have travelled to Arsenal (Lost 4-1), Manchester City(Lost 3-1) and Manchester United (Lost 3-0) this season they have been comfortably beaten, conceding 10 goals and scored just twice.
The market for this game is fascinating, the game is priced up on the fact that Chelsea may well “take their foot off the gas” and Liverpool (depending on Manchester United’s result at Crystal Palace on Saturday evening) need the points in their outside chance to clinch qualification for the Champions League. Personally, I just can’t see Jose Mourinho not wanting to extend this home record and allowing his players not to do a professional job.
For that reason, I will take advantage of what I consider a great price of [2.14] for the Chelsea win. While I wouldn’t want to put anyone off that bet, I think that “boring, boring” Chelsea may want to do it in style and Chelsea -1 in the Asian Handicap market looks more attractive to me if I can get at least [3.05], anything less then I will take the [2.14] in the Match Odds.