Chelsea step into the last chance saloon in terms of finishing in the Premier League top four when they host Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday (16:30 BST).
Chelsea’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League looked to have been ended by their 1-3 home defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on April 1. That left them eight points behind fourth-placed Spurs and 10 shy of Liverpool in third, albeit with a game in hand.
Subsequent results have given them an outside chance of pipping Liverpool to a top-four finish. Chelsea’s three wins and a draw, combined with one win and three draws for Liverpool, have seen them close to within six points and they still have that game in hand.
That means that victory on Sunday followed by a further triumph at home to Huddersfield next Wednesday would see Chelsea pull level with Liverpool prior to the final day of the season, when they travel to Newcastle and Liverpool host Brighton. Liverpool’s goal difference is superior enough to mean that they would have to drop points there for Chelsea to pip them to the top four but that isn’t inconceivable if Chelsea can pile the pressure on.
To do so they will first have to break a six-match winless streak of four draws and two defeats against Liverpool. It was in 2013 that they last defeated them at Stamford Bridge in league play, on a day on which Eden Hazard scored the opening goal and otherwise ran the show. Chelsea will need him to perform similarly if they are to replicate that win on Sunday.
The signs are promising. Antonio Conte’s side have regressed at both ends of the pitch this season, scoring significantly less and conceding slightly more per match than they did in their title-winning campaign of the previous year. When Hazard and Willian have been on song, they have at least been capable of competing. A man-of-the-match performance in the FA Cup semi-final win over Southampton two weeks ago showed Hazard in near top form.
Chelsea will take further encouragement from the fact that they come into the encounter well-rested following last weekend’s 1-0 win away to Swansea and with no significant injury concerns. Liverpool, in contrast, were involved in European action in midweek and may be forced to make some changes to their normal starting XI due to accumulated wear and tear.
Liverpool do travel to West London in high spirits after just making their way through to the Champions League final with a 2-4 defeat to Roma on Wednesday that saw them win out 7-6 on aggregate. Their primary concern prior to the return leg had been the two away goals that Roma secured at Anfield, but though strikes from Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum removed that worry early doors, Roma still caused a few scares late on.
There were some nervous moments, but Liverpool eventually emerged with the result they needed to book their place in the final against Real Madrid in Kiev at the end of the month. There was little time to celebrate. As Jurgen Klopp admitted afterwards, the focus will quickly shift to Sunday and a match he described as an “unbelievably important game.”
The truth is that Liverpool would be clear favourites to scoop up the three points they need at home to Brighton on the final day of the season even if they did fall to defeat at Stamford Bridge, but it still isn’t necessarily a situation that Klopp and his side would want to put themselves in. They will hope to secure at least a point this weekend.
Liverpool’s poor away record against fellow top-six sides this season (three defeats and a draw), their fatigue and injury problems and their relative lack of planning time should give Chelsea the upper hand on Sunday. While their own performances and results against other teams at the sharp end of the table have been patchy, at best, they are in good enough form to take advantage of their visitors’ issues and get the victory they need.
Our Preview’s Chelsea vs. Liverpool Betting Tips Verdict
- Bet on Chelsea to win @ best odds of 5/4 with Betfred.