Liverpool v Chelsea: Blues backed in key Anfield encounter

Liverpool and Chelsea cross swords on Thursday night for the highlight Premier League showdown this midweek. Mark O'Haire shares his thoughts on the Anfield encounter...

Liverpool back on track?

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said his side are still in "exciting places" after beating Sheffield United to end a run of four successive Premier League defeats and move within two points of a Champions League spot. Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale produced a string of fine saves to frustrate the Reds in the first half before Curtis Jones broke the hosts' resolve.

The 20-year-old showed the clinical touch his team-mates had been missing to b give the Merseysiders the lead shortly after the interval. Roberto Firmino's effort midway through the second period then deflected off Kean Bryan and over a stranded Ramsdale as Liverpool doubled their advantage before closing out the contest to secure a deserved 2-0 triumph.

Speaking post-match, Klopp said: "Plenty of people have written us off. That's fine. With all the problems we have had we're still around the exciting places. This was about us showing we're still there. We play Chelsea on Thursday, we have to show it again. We have to win football games, we know that. There's no way into the Champions League without results."

Chelsea extend unbeaten streak

Chelsea remain outside of the Premier League's top-four after playing out a drab goalless deadlock with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. The Blues - who've extended their unbeaten streak to nine under new boss Thomas Tuchel - were fortunate not to concede a penalty for handball against Callum Hudson-Odoi in the first-half.

In the end, neither side did enough to force a victory in West London but Chelsea supporters will be encouraged by their side's newfound resilience under Tuchel. The German is slowly but surely making his mark, and whilst the Blues lacked cutting edge at the weekend, the quality at their disposal in forward areas suggests the tide will turn soon.

Post-match Tuchel said, "We had the better chances and played high up the pitch in the second half. We have to accept a draw in the end and a clean sheet. We had a very good reaction after half time. We stepped up and got better and better with higher recoveries. We went for a win but it did not happen." Hudson-Odoi is rated doubtful for Thursday.

Blues in confident mood

Liverpool have won each of their last four Premier League meetings with Chelsea, netting 11 goals and conceding only four. The Reds have also tabled back-to-back Anfield triumphs over the Blues, although come into this clash on the back of four successive home league losses - the Merseysiders have never lost five consecutive home games in their history.

Liverpool's 2.36 title defence has toiled since October's thrashing by Aston Villa with the Reds returning W9-D7-L7 in their past 23 outings, including only W5-D2-L4 at their normally fortress Anfield base. Key injuries continue to plague Klopp's charges with Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak becoming the 14th different centre-back partnership used this season.

Chelsea 3.20 supremo Thomas Tuchel is unbeaten in his first nine matches as Blues boss in all competitions (W6-D3-L0), with only José Mourinho (10) and Luiz Felipe Scolari (12) having longer unbeaten starts as Stamford Bridge. The capital club have built from the back and focussed on control during the new regime, silencing seven of their nine opponents.

Oppose goals in Big Six showdown

Fourteen (61%) of 23 tussles between all-Big teams have featured Under 2.5 Goals 2.02 in 2020/21, including five of seven when Chelsea have been involved. Since Thomas Tuchel arrived, the Blues have played out largely lifeless affairs with both Man Utd (0-0) and Spurs (1-0) with the visitors' insistence on monopolising possession a key contributor.

In those aforementioned 23 meetings between Big Six rivals, just five have seen both sides score from non-penalty situations. However, three of those five matches involved Liverpool, who've struggled to field a first-choice defence. In fact, 13 of the Reds' 17 showdowns with sides inside the top-13 of the league standings have paid out for Over 2.5 Goals 1.89.

In a tricky tussle to analyse, I'm expecting Chelsea to follow their previous blueprint under Tuchel and for that reason I'm happy to oppose a high-scoring Anfield showdown, whilst also keeping the Blues onside. We can grab 2.19 on Chelsea Double Chance and Under 3.5 Goals, which holds the most appeal ahead of Thursday night's mega match.

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