Liverpool return to FA Cup action on Tuesday as they travel down to Stamford Bridge to book a place in the quarter-finals. Both clubs suffered disappointing setbacks in the league at the weekend as they dropped points to strugglers Watford and Bournemouth.
Frank Lampard could only manage a draw at Bournemouth, they are currently leading the pack in the race for top four, but the draw meant that rivals caught up to them to make challenge more difficult.
Liverpool lost for the first time in the league this season, Watford were well worth their victory as they ended Liverpool’s 44-match unbeaten run in surprise circumstances which boosted their hopes of survival.
Chelsea form over the past couple of weeks has seen their grip on fourth place loosen up. Four teams are now within five points of the London-based club and, if their poor form continues for the remainder of the season, there is a real chance of them missing out on the Champions League.
They have won two of their last eight league games and were humiliated at home by Bayern Munich in Europe. The 3-0 defeat to the Germans in the first leg means they are likely to be knocked out. With top four and the FA Cup left to play for, Frank Lampard may have to prioritise the league.
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Their last league game against Bournemouth should have seen them get maximum points. Marcos Alonso gave them a first half lead, but Bournemouth then replied with two quick goals to take the lead. They had the chances to increase their advantage but fluffed their lines. Alonso again headed in after Pedro’s effort was saved to earn a point on the south coast.
Liverpool’s performance against Watford was pathetic. I don’t think too many supporters of the club cared about the loss, it was bound to happen eventually. But the way in which Liverpool played made it very easy for Watford, they made countless errors and eventually these errors lead to goals. The Reds conceded three goals in 18 minutes which was equal to the amount they have conceded since the start of December, around 1,100 minutes.
Some people pointed the finger at Dejan Lovren and, while he may have been at fault for some of the goals, so was the rest of his defence. The midfield lacked intensity and creativity while the front three lacked ideas and registered very poor performances.
In recent weeks Liverpool have looked a different side than the one that played before the winter break. Maybe you can blame momentum loss due to the two-week break or, more concerning, maybe it’s a lack of desire with the league seemingly wrapped up. Whatever it is, this loss will certainly give them a kick up the backside and propel them to finish the season on a high.
Frank Lampard may field a weakened side against Liverpool — a handful of first team players are out including influential midfielder N’Golo Kanté.
Kepa may well start in goal. The young goalkeeper has been dropped in the league due to his performances and Tuesday’s game will give him a platform to build upon.
Antonio Rüdiger, Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori could play a back three, while Reece James and Emerson Palmieri will likely be at wing-back. Jorginho and Ross Barkley will almost certainly start in midfield.
Mason Mount and Willian are expected to support the revitalised Olivier Giroud up top.
Due to the defeat on Saturday Jürgen Klopp may field a handful of first-team players to get it out of their system. Many of the young players who have impressed in recent rounds will start alongside the regular starters while the fringe players will have to settle for a place on the bench.
Adrián will start in goal — the Spanish goalkeeper is Klopp’s domestic cup ‘keeper and there is no reason why that should change.
Neco Williams will likely form part of a back four alongside The returning Joe Gomez, Joël Matip with James Milner starting at left-back.
Fabinho, Lallana and Jones will form the midfield three. Jones has upped his game for Liverpool since his Merseyside winner, he scored an 8-minute hat trick for the u23 at the weekend and this game will provide another outing for him to cement a place in Jürgen Klopp’s squad next season.
Sadio Mané could start up front with Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino in support. A strong bench should he named as Klopp should target a treble with the weight of an unbeaten season now off the players shoulders.
With the form Chelsea are in and the injuries that they have, a weakened Liverpool side should get the job done. However, the Reds have been playing quite poor as of late so may struggle to get into the match.
Liverpool always respond after a loss, but they have not been defeated in such a way since Tottenham Hotspur almost 30 months ago, when they lost 4-1.
With only three months until the end of the season, Klopp will want a reaction from his players. The match will be decided on the night so a strong bench should be named to get the result if needed. I think the starting eleven will get the job done with a close victory.
Predicted final score: Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool