Weblog: The football punter

Expect no slip-up from Reds this time at Anfield

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It's the fixture that still sends shivers down the spines of the Anfield Road regulars but unlike five years ago Liverpool can clear the Chelsea hurdle as they hunt a first title in the Premier League era.

On April 27, 2014, Liverpool hosted a weakened Chelsea, who rested seven players in preparation for a Champions League semi-final, as 2-11 title favourites before Steven Gerrard gifted the Londoners a goal with his infamous slip.

Chelsea won 2-0, Manchester City beat Crystal Palace immediately afterwards and went odds-on in the title race, a battle they won by two points, to leave Liverpool searching for their first championship since 1990.

The fixture list has worked out exactly the same - only City play before Liverpool this time - and whatever happens at Selhurst Park, expect Jurgen Klopp's side to thrive in the lively Anfield atmosphere.

Leaders Liverpool have had to show their mettle in recent weeks, coming from behind to beat Burnley and Southampton and needing late drama to overcome Fulham and Tottenham, turning draws into much-needed victories.

At various points Klopp's frightening front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and former Chelsea man Mohamed Salah have been required to produce telling moments of quality and always delivered.

The trio have 47 league goals between them this term, while Klopp may also have found his best midfield in the 2-0 win over Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday, using Fabinho behind Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita.

Liverpool will aim to run the legs off Chelsea and Maurizio Sarri's outfit don't appear to have the defensive resolve on the evidence of this season's away trips to the big six.

Chelsea were humiliated 6-0 at City and easily beaten 2-0 at Arsenal and 3-1 at Tottenham.

On every occasion Sarri's side were out of the contest by half-time, eventually allowing a total of 23 shots on target, and the Blues have lost half of their ten away trips in 2019 with the victories coming at Malmo, Fulham, Dynamo Kiev, Cardiff and Slavia Prague.

When it comes to the crunch, Chelsea have suffered defeats in five of their six away matches against top-half Premier League opponents. The only exception was a win at tenth-placed Watford.

The hope for top-four chasing Chelsea comes in their big-game mentality, highlighted in the League Cup final when they took City to penalties, and a healthy record of eight matches unbeaten at Anfield plus the brilliance of Belgian Eden Hazard.

His solo goal against West Ham on Monday was a thing of beauty and Hazard also scored in the League Cup win at Anfield this season, when both managers made wholesale changes, as well as notching in the 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture.

Hazard's form is a warning for Liverpool, who may not be able to keep a clean sheet, but should still end up with maximum points.

Liverpool to win 2-1
Liverpool to win 3-1

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Match in Focus

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Napoli v Liverpool

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  • Liverpool have lost six of their last eight Champions League away games
Expert verdict
Liverpool begin their Champions League title defence with a return to the scene of one of the four away defeats they suffered on their way to winning last season’s competition. The Reds were beaten 1-0 at the Stadio San Paolo in the group stage last October and, as the Partenopei have lost three times in their last 19 home fixtures in the competition, their run of six defeats in eight UCL away games is a concern. However, they rarely fail to deliver in the final third, netting in all but four of their last 42 competitive matches.