Two top-four hopefuls meet when Liverpool host Chelsea at Anfield on Saturday (17:30 GMT, live on BT Sport).
Both sides finished in the top four last season, with Chelsea winning the title and Liverpool pipping Arsenal to fourth, and both will again be involved in the battle for the Champions League places this time around. Chelsea are currently third, with Liverpool fifth.
The main hurdle to another such finish for Liverpool is their defensive instability. Things seemed to have improved after their 4-1 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur last month, as they conceded just once in the four matches in all competitions that followed it, but they then suffered another defensive collapse away to Sevilla on Tuesday. Errors and uncertainty reigned as they gave up a three-goal lead at the interval to draw 3-3 at the final whistle.
If the first half served as evidence of Liverpool’s attacking potency, with Roberto Firmino scoring twice and Sadio Mane getting the other as they sliced through the home defence at will, the second half provided clear proof of their defensive flaws. They lacked the necessary tools to see out a result that had looked done and dusted at half time.
Liverpool have one of the most fearsome forward lines in the Premier League, with pace and sharpness aplenty, but their problems at the back mean that they are not always able to take full advantage of it. All four of the teams ahead of them in the table, including Chelsea, have conceded less than a goal per match. Liverpool have conceded 17, which works out to 1.42 per match. Even with 24 scored that still gives them the worst goal difference in the top five.
This has been a consistent issue for Liverpool since Jurgen Klopp took charge in October 2015 and while some of the fault lies in the club’s inability to bring in top-quality defensive reinforcements, his system must also take a share of the blame. Liverpool remain a very good side but not one who look like taking a further step forward this season.
Chelsea have not always convinced during the first third or so of the campaign, but Antonio Conte’s side have been resurgent in recent weeks, recovering from back-to-back defeats to Manchester City and Crystal Palace with four straight league victories, including a 1-0 win at home to Manchester United and a 4-0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
That latter victory gave further notice of the increasingly productive partnership between Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata, whom Conte has begun to pair in a 3-5-1-1/3-5-2 formation this season. The duo performed superbly in the excellent win away to Atletico Madrid in September and have now been directly involved in five of the club’s last six league goals. Hazard notched a further goal and an assist in Wednesday’s 4-0 win away to Qarabag.
Chelsea were handed a relatively tough start to the season but after this match, they have a much more winnable set of fixtures this side of the New Year. Indeed, if they were to take the three points at Anfield, victories in their subsequent eight fixtures would see them equal the 13-match winning streak that powered them to last season’s title.
Certain issues still remain, Manchester City’s sterling form means that a successful defence of their Premier League trophy is unlikely and there are question marks over Conte’s long-term future at the club. But Chelsea are still strong top-four contenders and have already secured their passage to the last 16 of the Champions League. They remain tough opponents.
Indeed, Liverpool were the only side not to suffer at least one defeat to Chelsea in the league last season, with the equivalent fixture ending in a 1-1 draw after Liverpool had earlier triumphed 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. In fact, they are undefeated in the four fixtures between the sides since Klopp took over, with the other match at Anfield also ending in a 1-1 draw.
But Chelsea have already ground out narrow victories at home to Manchester United and away to Tottenham Hotspur this season and have a solid chance of repeating the trick on Saturday if they can take advantage of the two or three good opportunities that are likely to come their way. If not, they should at least be capable of securing a draw.
Our Preview’s Liverpool v Chelsea Betting Tips Verdict
So with the thoughts of our preview in mind, and after studying the betting odds on offer from the best of the UK online bookmakers, here are our tips:
- Back Chelsea +0.25 on an Asian Handicap @ 21/20 with Bet365.
- Bet on Eden Hazard to score at anytime @ best odds of 45/17 (just over 5/2) with Unibet.
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