Chelsea have a chance to put their stuttering form behind them as they face Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
Traditionally a cagey affair, there have been just nine goals scored in the last eight Premier League meetings between Chelsea and Liverpool at the Bridge, while the Blues have failed to score in three of the last four. Not the ideal stats when Andre Villas-Boas’ men are looking to arrest a slide that saw them lose to QPR and Arsenal before a hard-fought 1-0 win over Blackburn.
With Fernando Torres facing his old side, Villas-Boas will look to the Spaniard to lead the line but will also have in-form duo Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge, who has scored four goals from just six shots on target in the Premier League this season, ready to wreak havoc on the flanks.
Chelsea have not struggled for goals much, but they have had issues in keeping clean sheets and their players have been credited with a joint-league high five errors leading to goals this season. It is an odd predicament, given their history of solidity at the back, but the Blues are yet to find a settled partner for John Terry with Alex, Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz all vying for the position.
Opponents Liverpool could be boosted by the return from injury of one of their finest defenders: Jamie Carragher. Kenny Dalglish’s men have only conceded more than a single goal in a game once (in a 4-0 defeat to Spurs in September) and they have allowed their opponents fewer shots on target against them than any other team in the Premier League this season (38).
At home they have struggled in games they should be winning, such as against Norwich and Swansea, but their form on the road has seen them pick up four straight wins which will be a source of confidence ahead of Sunday’s trip.
Ultimately, both sides need to kickstart their seasons as they find themselves trailing behind the two Manchester clubs in the table. A win for Chelsea and they could be back in the top three; a win for the Reds and they would be level with the Blues. One feels that neither side can afford to slip up.
Chelsea player to watch: Fernando Torres. The Chelsea striker has not hit the ground running since his £50 million move to Stamford Bridge in January. In fact, he’s looked hugely off the pace and has made headlines for some high-profile misses, such as the open goal against Manchester United. Torres scored seven goals in eight games in all competitions for Liverpool against Chelsea but only one of those was at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea fans will hope he can regain some of his home scoring form against his old side.
Liverpool player to watch: Jose Enrique. Knocking on the door of Spain’s national team, Enrique has made strides since joining Liverpool from Newcastle this summer, though he may be casting an envious glance back at his old club at present. The pacy left-back will find himself tested defensively by the likes of Mata and Sturridge, while he will also be tasked with attacking the space behind the right side of Chelsea’s defence as they push on.
Key Battle: Frank Lampard v Lucas. Lampard was handed the England armband last weekend against Spain and repaid his country’s faith with the winning goal. While he may not be the explosive box-to-box midfielder he once was, Lampard still has a lot to offer Chelsea and has shown as much recently with a run of important goals. His vision and late runs into the box will provide the Blues with an additional attacking threat, but he will have to use all his experience to get away from Lucas. The Brazilian has slowly won over the Anfield crowd and is now one of the first names on the team-sheet for Kenny Dalglish. The stability he brings in the middle is important for the Reds’ creative stars to find room, although he treads the discipline tightrope a little too often.
Trivia: Fernando Torres has scored every 425 minutes for Chelsea compared to every 121 minutes for Liverpool and his accuracy is 38% compared to 49% with the Reds. His chance conversion is just 10% for the Blues compared to 22% when he was leading the line on Merseyside.
Stats: Chelsea have picked up more cards than any other team in the Premier League this season, 28 yellow and three reds, while Liverpool’s Luis Suarez has won three penalties this season, more than any other player.
Odds: Chelsea (1.80), Liverpool (4.50) and the draw (3.60) are on offer with bet365 and Fernando Torres is 26.00 to net a hat-trick against his old side.
Prediction: Usually a cagey affair, hopes of another 5-3 at Stamford Bridge might be stretching it a little. A draw is the best bet.
- Chelsea vs Liverpool: Fernando Torres’ Form Not Only Problem Facing Chelsea (bleacherreport.com)