Liverpool vs Chelsea – Preview
Jurgen Klopp hopes Liverpool can continue to build a big-match culture at Anfield when Chelsea visit in the Barclays Premier League on Wednesday.
The Reds are eighth, but still harbour hopes of European qualification via the league and will go above sixth-placed Southampton if they beat the Blues.
Liverpool are unbeaten in 12 home matches under Klopp, a run that has featured wins over Manchester City, Manchester United and Everton, as well as their enthralling UEFA Europa League successes against Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal.
With the Europa League final against Sevilla and three BPL matches left, Klopp is keen to build his players’ mental toughness, starting with a fixture against the 2014/15 league champions.
“It’s how it is when you are at home, really strong and don’t give points away,” Klopp said after Sunday’s 2-0 win at home to Watford.
“I want to be, in the future, really consistent in all the games. For this we need a little bit of time.
“When I came here, we had a little problem at home, it was not too easy to win. We know Anfield is a special place.”
Handling the occasion is also at the forefront of Guus Hiddink’s thoughts after Chelsea threw away a pair of one-goal leads to lose 3-2 at Sunderland on Saturday.
“For them I think the crowd felt like the 12th man,” said Hiddink. “It was not hostile, just a very enthusiastic atmosphere, but my players are experienced in that. We should have coped.
“Sunderland felt the energy of the crowd but it’s worse that we let them stay in it by not killing the game off. It made them a little more energetic in the second half.”
Hiddink will have to make do without captain John Terry at Anfield due to a suspension, so Branislav Ivanovic is likely to come into the centre of defence, although American youngster Matt Miazga is another option for Hiddink.
Klopp made eight changes for the Watford win, having beaten Villarreal 3-0 three days previously, but was quick to hail his back-up players, with Joe Allen attracting particular praise.
Klopp said: “I said it would be cool if we could play ‘Joe Allen football’ – brilliant technique, hard-working, very lively, very energetic.
“He is a great player. In good teams with more good players than you need, you have situations like this [rotation]. But he takes the situation brilliantly, he is a wonderful boy and professional football player.”
Allen could be given the chance to put his stamp on the team once again, although more alterations could in order with no new fitness concerns for Klopp to contend with.
Liverpool (from): Bogdan, Mignolet, Caulker, Clyne, Flanagan, Ilori, Lovren, Moreno, Skrtel, Toure, Allen, Can, Coutinho, Ibe, Lallana, Lucas, Milner, Rossiter, Teixeira, Benteke, Firmino, Sturridge.
Chelsea (from): Amelia, Begovic, Blackman, Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Miazga, Rahman, Fabregas, Hazard, Loftus-Cheek, Matic, Mikel, Oscar, Traore, Willian, Costa, Falcao, Kenedy, Pato, Pedro.
Referee: Michael Oliver Assistants: S Burt, G Beswick Fourth Official: P Tierney
– Liverpool’s victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this season ended a run of six Barclays Premier League matches without a win against the Blues (D3 L3).
– Liverpool have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine BPL matches against Chelsea and conceded two goals in each of the last three meetings at Anfield.
– Chelsea have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 league encounters with Liverpool.
– The first goal has been scored in the opening 10 minutes in four of the last five top-flight meetings between the two clubs.