Liverpool are 10 points adrift of the top four after a disappointing result last weekend
The same gap separates Chelsea from the Champions League qualification spots
The loser of this game will surely be out of the race to secure a top-four finish this term
The odds for Liverpool vs Chelsea are taken from the FanDuel sportsbook, where you can get $200 after betting $20.
Neither team has impressed of late, but home advantage could swing this match in Liverpool’s favor.
Back Liverpool to beat Chelsea in the early kick-off on Saturday. (-120)
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Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend felt like an end-of-an-era performance. It is not just that the Reds lost to Roberto De Zerbi’s side, but that they were comprehensively outplayed by them. As fantastic as Brighton were, Liverpool looked a shadow of their former selves.
At their peak under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool would have relished playing against a team like Brighton. The Seagulls are determined to play out from the back. They take risks in possession and rarely hit the ball long.
The Liverpool of years gone by would have exploited this with their counter-pressing approach, winning the ball high up the pitch and going straight for the throat. But this current team looks slow and sluggish.
At the Amex Stadium, Liverpool players seemed to arrive on the scene a few seconds too late. Brighton were sharper, both physically and mentally.
One of the secrets to Alex Ferguson’s success throughout his extraordinary 27-year tenure as Manchester United manager was his willingness to refresh the squad every few seasons. Even teams that had won trophies were broken up to make way for fresh blood. Liverpool, by contrast, seem to have gone stale.
There is no indication that Klopp’s position is under threat - and nor should it be. But the German might have to accept that he needs to radically overhaul his group this summer. Right now, Liverpool are so far off where they want to be.
In Premier League terms, that is the top four at a minimum. Ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Chelsea, Liverpool are 10 points adrift of the final Champions League qualification spot. It sounds unthinkable, but the Reds are potentially just a couple of defeats away from dropping into the bottom half.
Chelsea can empathize with Liverpool’s present problems. In fact, the two teams are level on points - although the Blues have played one more game than the Reds and also have a worse goal difference. As things stand, it is hard to see either team finishing in the top four.
Yet while Chelsea are in a similar position in the table to Liverpool, their route to it has been different. Since Klopp’s tenure began in October 2015, Chelsea have employed seven different managers. The latest of those is Potter, who has endured a difficult few months in west London.
Potter actually oversaw a nine-game unbeaten run at the very start of his tenure as Thomas Tuchel’s replacement, but that has long been forgotten. Chelsea have won just two of their last 10 Premier League games, sending them from fourth in the table to 10th.
There can be no doubting Potter’s talent as a coach, but the worrying thing for the former Brighton & Hove Albion boss is the notion that he might not have the personality to manage Chelsea.
This is a club that relishes big characters on the touchline - think Tuchel, Antonio Conte, and Jose Mourinho - and the fans are yet to be won over by the current occupant of the Stamford Bridge dugout.
A win at Anfield would certainly represent a step in the right direction for Potter. Chelsea are a big club but one that seems to thrive as underdogs, which is what they are for Saturday’s match on Merseyside. After an important 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace last time out, plus the signing of Mykhailo Mudryk from under the noses of Arsenal, Chelsea supporters will hope the worst is now behind them.
The winner of this match would still have plenty of work to do in order to finish in the top four, but the loser’s chances of securing Champions League qualification would surely be over on Saturday.
A probable gap of 13 points would almost certainly be too much for either Liverpool or Chelsea to make up.
Home advantage could play a key role in determining the outcome of this one. For all of Liverpool’s struggles this term, they have remained pretty reliable at home. At the time of writing only Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United have averaged more points in front of their own fans than the Reds.
Darwin Nunez’s probable return to the starting XI is another boost for Liverpool. The Uruguay international is not the most polished of forwards, but he at least makes things happen. Klopp’s team have missed his energy and intensity during his recent spell on the sidelines.
Chelsea have really struggled on the road of late, taking just two points from the last 15 available at opposition grounds. Potter will hope Mudryk can provide some attacking spark, but this game could come too early for the new signing to make a difference.
Back Liverpool to win on Saturday and keep their slim hopes of a top-four finish alive.
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Teams: Liverpool vs Chelsea
Location: Anfield, Liverpool, England
Date and Time: Saturday 21 January 2023, 7:00 AM EST
How to Watch: Peacock Premium
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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