Liverpool need all three points when they travel to West London to take on already-crowned Premier League champions Chelsea on Sunday (16:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Chelsea are on a 17-match unbeaten run across 90 minutes in all competitions and wrapped up the league title last weekend. They sit atop the Premier League table, with 83 points from 25 wins, eight draws and just two defeats.
Jose Mourinho’s side sealed the club’s fifth top-flight league title with a 1-0 win at home to Crystal Palace last weekend. It was the sort of solid and professional performance that has seen them over the line to the title. Palace created little of note and Chelsea took the three points after Eden Hazard converted the rebound to his own saved penalty right on half time.
Best Match Betting Odds
11/10 Chelsea (Bet365, BetVictor, SkyBet, Betfred, William Hill, Betfair Sportsbook, Boylesports)
5/2 Draw (Bet365, Betfred)
29/10 Liverpool (BetVictor, Ladbrokes, Betfair Sportsbook, Boylesports)
It was the Blues’ eighth victory by a one-goal margin since the turn of the year, as the swashbuckling football of earlier in the campaign has given way to a disciplined grind to the title. The 5-3 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on New Year’s Day undoubtedly hastened a switch which has proved successful in gaining Mourinho the eighth league title of his career.
It was fitting that it was Hazard who got the title-winning goal. With 14 goals and eight assists, the PFA Player of the Year has been directly involved in just under a third of the club’s league goals this season. That, plus important contributions from new signings Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa and the best defensive record in the league led Chelsea to glory.
Mourinho will be without the injured Costa (hamstring), while Oscar (knock) and Ramires (illness) are unlikely to take any part.
Liverpool come into the match on the back of four wins, two draws and four defeats in their last 10 matches in all competitions, and two wins in their last six in the league. They are fifth in the Premier League with 61 points from 18 wins, seven draws and 10 defeats.
Brendan Rodgers’ (pictured) side needed a late winner from Steven Gerrard to record a 2-1 victory at home to lowly Queens Park Rangers last weekend. They took an early lead through Philippe Coutinho but allowed that advantage to slip with just over quarter of an hour left to play. Gerrard then had a penalty saved before eventually heading home the 87th-minute winner.
The three points saw Liverpool close to within four of Manchester United in fourth with three matches left to play. They recovered from a poor start to the campaign to embark on a 13-match unbeaten run from December through to mid-March but recent defeats to United, Arsenal and Hull have exposed their weaknesses and made a top-four finish unlikely.
Fifth place is par for Liverpool given their wage spend but Rodgers has still faced criticism. The club’s early elimination from the Champions League and their meek surrender to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final have both been used as sticks to beat him with. He has, however, engendered enough goodwill to suggest that he will get at least another season.
Rodgers will definitely be without the injured Daniel Sturridge (hip), Jon Flanagan (knee), Jordan Rossiter (ankle) and Mario Balotelli (foot) for this match.
Chelsea vs Liverpool Betting Tips
Chelsea won 2-1 when these sides met in the league at Anfield earlier this season, while they also triumphed over the Reds across the two legs of their Capital One Cup semi-final in January. The Blues have won each of the last three league meetings between the sides, but the last six at Stamford Bridge have yielded three wins for Liverpool and two for Chelsea.
On paper, Chelsea have little to play for on Sunday. Mourinho is, however, a coach who never likes to lose to a direct rival, especially one that is managed by a former member of his coaching staff. With their unbeaten home record to defend, the Blues are certainly unlikely to make things easy for their visitors.
Liverpool’s hopes of winning last season’s league title slipped away with a 2-0 home defeat to Chelsea three matches from the end of the campaign. This season it is Champions League qualification that is on the line. They must take all three points here if they are to have any realistic chance of overhauling United for fourth right at the death.
Chelsea are likely to approach this match in a similar way to their home games against the current top four, all of which ended with two or fewer goals. A small-margin home win is therefore the most likely result.