Chelsea v Liverpool: Reds favoured in 'must-win' match-up

With Manchester City moving clear of the pack, both Chelsea and Liverpool know Super Sunday's showdown is almost in 'must-win' territory. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter.

Tuchel downbeat on Blues

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel said he would be "stupid" to think his side can challenge for the Premier League title while he has so many of his players are out injured and ill. The Blues conceded a 91st-minute equaliser to Brighton on Wednesday night to fall eight points behind pace-setting Manchester City ahead of a crucial New Year's card.

Romelu Lukaku marked his first top-flight start for two months by giving Chelsea a lead but Brighton carved out 18 chances in total at Stamford Bridge and deservedly claimed a share of the spoils at the death. To make matters worse, Tuchel saw defenders Reece James and Andreas Christensen hobble off to join a lengthening injury list.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Thiago Silva missed the match along with Ben Chilwell through injury. In addition, Timo Werner has not played since 11 December after testing positive for coronavirus, while N'Golo Kante came off the bench despite suffering a knee injury against Aston Villa, leaving defensive and midfield options thin on the ground.

Liverpool turned over by Leicester

Liverpool failed to score for the first time in 29 Premier League outings as the Reds' own title prospects were dealt a major blow with a 1-0 reverse at Leicester on Tuesday night. Mohamed Salah's saved penalty and countless spurned opportunities were to blame as the Merseysiders went down to the Foxes' only shot on-target at the King Power Stadium.

The visitors won the shot count 21-6 but only managed four attempts on-target themselves and post-match Jurgen Klopp admitted, "I didn't like our performance. So often these boys give me a chance to say 'wow' what a game. Tonight it's 'wow', but in completely the other way. It didn't look good." Liverpool are now nine points off the Premier League summit and double figure odds to win the title.

Sunday's trip to Stamford Bridge is the last before Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita go to the Africa Cup of Nations. All three are fit and available with Thiago Alcantara potentially expected to return to the fold, although Andrew Robertson is suspended.

Cash has come for Reds

Chelsea and Liverpool have crossed swords 10 times since the beginning of 2018/19 with the Reds enjoying slight supremacy (W4-D3-L3). Looking at the head-to-head records since Jurgen Klopp arrived in Merseyside, the visitors have posted an impressive W6-D5-L2 return over the Blues, although Thomas Tuchel was victorious in his first fixture against Liverpool.

Chelsea 3.10 have dropped 11 points from their last eight Premier League encounters, with three draws in their most recent four fixtures really puncturing progress. The Blues' famed defensive exploits have deteriorated and Tuchel's troops have registered only two shutouts in 10 league dates, whilst returning just W3-D4-L2 when facing top-half teams.

Six successive Premier League triumphs parachuted Liverpool 2.46 right back into the title conversation, however, the Reds have dropped five points in back-to-back away days at Tottenham and Leicester. The Merseysiders have managed just W2-D2-L2 when travelling to sides outside of the bottom-six this season, yet have scored 28 goals in 10 road trips.

Open encounter anticipated

Both sides are jam-packed with star quality in the final-third. Liverpool can boast a fully fit front four with all of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino available. Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku's return to form has been timely with the Belgian striker getting on the scoresheet in each of his past two appearances.

Considering the lay of the land, neither team should be looking to play for a point, and a 'must-win' mentality could allow the match to open up earlier than expected.

Cash has understandably come for Liverpool following Chelsea's recent run, and growing injury list, and it makes sense to side with the Reds in a goal-heavy game from Stamford Bridge.

Over 2.5 Goals is trading at 1.88 but backing Liverpool Double Chance and Over 1.5 Goals via the Bet Builder is an interesting angle at 1.75 via the BetBuilder. We'd be paid out if Liverpool win 2-0, 2-1, 3-0 or 3-1, with the 1-1 and 2-2 correct scores also onside.

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