Premier League 2018-19: Big Match Focus — Liverpool vs Chelsea

Liverpool faces arguably its toughest remaining test in the Premier League as in-form Chelsea visits Anfield for a mouth-watering clash.

Eden Hazard (centre) has been in good form this season, with 16 goals and 12 assists. Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool has just five games left in its quest for a first top-flight title in 29 years, the first of which comes against Chelsea on Sunday. Jurgen Klopp’s side came from behind to beat Southampton 3-1 last week thanks to goals from Naby Keita, Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson — a result that moved it two points above Manchester City at the Premier League summit.

The visit of Maurizio Sarri’s side is widely considered to be the toughest remaining game for the Reds and they will have to be at their very best to claim all three points against a side fighting to secure a place in next season’s Champions League.

Read | Hazard staying focused on Chelsea amid continued Real Madrid speculation

Three straight wins for Chelsea have propelled it up to third and it knows another victory will put it in pole position — ahead of Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United — for a coveted top-four finish.

CHELSEA AIMING TO RUIN LIVERPOOL’S HOME COMFORTS

Liverpool’s stunning 37-game unbeaten run at Anfield could be under serious threat on Sunday if recent history is anything to go by. The Reds have failed to win any of their last six Premier League games at home against Chelsea, while Sarri’s men will be in confident mood having already tasted victory at Anfield this season — a 2-1 win in the EFL Cup in September.

Klopp will take comfort, though, from the contrasting fortunes of both sides against ‘big six’ rivals in recent times.

Read | FIFA to study Chelsea's appeal against transfer ban

Liverpool is unbeaten in its last 17 Premier League games against its top-of-the-table opponents at Anfield, while Chelsea is winless in its last seven away from home against the same opponents, losing the last five in a row.

The game offers Roberto Firmino the chance to break his duck against Chelsea. The Brazilian has only faced Manchester United (eight games) and Everton (seven) more often than Chelsea (five) without finding the net in the Premier League.

FORM GUIDE

Since a run of four draws in six games saw it slip behind City, Liverpool has returned to title-winning form in the past few weeks, winning its last four league fixtures in a row.

Chelsea will have its work cut out returning to London with maximum points given that the Reds have lost fewer games than any other Premier League team this season. Their only defeat came against title rival City in January.

MORE FROM EPL

After a draw with Wolves and a defeat to Everton, Chelsea has reeled off three wins on the spin to claw its way back into Champions League qualification contention. Its inability to keep clean sheets away from home, though, will give Sarri cause for concern. Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing a side that has enjoyed just one shutout in its last 11 games on the road — a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

HEAD TO HEAD (Mohamed Salah vs Eden Hazard)

Salah has not scaled the heights of last season’s breathtaking form but he is still sitting pretty as Liverpool’s top Premier League scorer this season with 18 goals. The Egypt international has had more shots than any other Reds players this season (53 on target, 32 off target) and completed more dribbles (121) than any of his team-mates.

His superb solo effort against Southampton last week ended a run of eight games in all competitions without a goal. Do not bet against him netting another against his former club at the weekend, too.

Mohamed Salah has scored 18 Premier League goals for Liverpool this season. Photo: Getty Images

 

There have been no such question marks over the form of Chelsea’s star man, however, as Hazard dazzles for the club despite the continued speculation over his long-term future at Stamford Bridge.

Hazard has had a hand in more goals than any other Premier League player this season, combining his 16 goals with 12 assists. His goals have come from 15 fewer shots on target (38) than Salah, while he has completed 46 more dribbles (167) than the Liverpool forward. It is little wonder that Real Madrid continues to be linked with a move for the Belgian.

HISTORY SAYS...

Liverpool knows it likely needs to win all of its remaining games to claim the title but recent meetings with Chelsea at Anfield suggest a draw is the most likely result. The last three Premier League meetings between the two sides on Merseyside have all finished 1-1.

Klopp will hope Sunday marks the start of better fortunes against Chelsea, given that the German only has a poorer points-per-game ratio as Liverpool boss against Manchester United (1.00) than he does against the London side (1.43).

The game marks just the third meeting between Klopp and Sarri with the Italian yet to taste defeat against his opposite number (one win and one draw).

  Dugout videos