Chelsea need all three points when they host Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and manager Jose Mourinho’s job may depend on it (12:45 GMT, live on BT Sport).
Chelsea have endured a desperate start to the season and come into this match on the back of just one win in their last seven matches in all competitions. They are a lowly 15th in the league table, with 11 points from three wins, two draws and five defeats.
Mourinho’s side were eliminated from the Capital One Cup on penalties on Tuesday following a 1-1 draw away to Stoke City. Loic Remy (pictured) took the match to extra time with an injury-time equaliser, but a miss from Eden Hazard in the final spot-kick of the shootout saw them exit the competition just a few days after falling to a 2-1 league defeat to West Ham.
The latter result left the reigning Premier League champions 11 points shy of league-leaders Manchester City and nine away from the top-four finish that will surely be their minimum requirement for the season. They look far less efficient at both ends of the pitch and have already suffered two more defeats than they did during the entirety of last season.
Their downturn does not appear to be a simple case of bad fortune. Chelsea’s statistical profile is closer to that of a mid-table side than that of a title challenger, as they are giving up more good-quality chances than they are themselves creating. The series of counterbalances that Mourinho steadily introduced throughout last season have fallen apart.
Mourinho is without the injured Branislav Ivanovic (hamstring) and Thibaut Courtois (knee), while Diego Costa (ribs) and Pedro (knock) are unlikely to play any part in the game.
Liverpool have made a pretty mediocre start to the season and travel south on the back of one win and five draws in their last six matches in all competitions. They are ninth in the Premier League table with 14 points from three wins, five draws and two defeats.
Jurgen Klopp’s side progressed to the last eight of the Capital One Cup with a 1-0 victory at home to Bournemouth on Wednesday. Nathaniel Clyne gave them the lead inside the opening 20 minutes, and they edged possession and the shot count thereafter against a Bournemouth side who put up a good fight and created a couple of very good chances.
It was the first win of Klopp’s tenure and a result that at least ended the drawing streak in which Liverpool had previously been imprisoned. Summer signing Roberto Firmino paid back his coach’s pre-match flattery with a good performance, and he could be the key to improving the attack of a side that has scored less than a goal per match so far this season.
Securing Klopp, a two-time Bundesliga winner and one-time Champions League finalist during his successful reign at Borussia Dortmund, was rightly seen as a coup for Liverpool, but it is clear that it will take time for him to settle in and impose his style of play on the team. The growing pains evident during his first few matches in charge are to be expected.
Klopp will definitely be without the injured Danny Ings (knee), Joe Gomez (knee), Jon Flanagan (knee) and Jordan Henderson (foot), while Daniel Sturridge (knee) and Jordan Rossiter (hamstring) are major doubts. Christian Benteke (knee) and Kolo Toure (hamstring) are more likely to take part.
Our Preview’s Chelsea v Liverpool Betting Tips
Last season’s equivalent fixture ended in a 1-1 draw after Chelsea had earlier won 2-1 at Anfield. The Blues also won 2-1 on aggregate over the two legs of their Capital One Cup semi-final and are undefeated (with three wins) over the last six league matches between the sides. The two teams have shared two wins apiece in the last six at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are in desperate need of a win and the lack of one could threaten the manager’s tenure at the club. Until now, they have looked a mere shadow of the side who so comfortably secured last season’s league title, with a variety of minor problems combining to produce a side that currently appears incapable of significantly improving its league position despite the talent available to Mourinho.
Liverpool have been very average so far this season. Regardless of Klopp’s qualities, this is still a side that has won just four of their 15 matches in all competitions, with all four of those victories coming by a single-goal margin. They would dearly love to come away victorious from their trip to Stamford Bridge but that may just be a step too far right now.
In the circumstances, our match preview believes a score draw – the result at the end of 90 minutes in seven of Liverpool’s last 10 matches – is the most likely outcome. Our betting tips are: