A huge clash awaits Stamford Bridge as crisis-hit Chelsea host under-pressure Liverpool in what looks like a crucial game for both sides. Chelsea were again in the headlines this week not for transfer-related activity but for another managerial change which had been coming as Graham Potter was sacked by the club after the latest 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa at the weekend. The defeat at home saw the Blues succumb into the bottom half of the table and match their worst season in their club’s history with 11 defeats already this season.
The new owners Behdad Eghbali and Todd Boehly finally decided to pull the plug on their “long-term vision” under Potter which was the major reason behind their decision to stick with the Englishman even after the dreadful run of form in January. Potter’s backroom staff member and ex-Brighton player Bruno Saltor has been handed the interim role at the club to help the team prepare for the game against Liverpool.
The sacking of Potter means the Blues have now had 3 managers in-charge this season alone which has been underwhelming by far. The backlash of the fans and the pressure of the huge expectations at the club were enough for Potter to be shown the door just 6 months into the job and now the hunt for a permanent manager is on as the club directors Paul Winstanley and Christopher Vivell will be busy this week contacting possible managerial candidates.
Though the sacking would overshadow the fixture, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have also been underperforming this season and are nowhere near what they are expected to be. The Reds are 8th in the league 8 points behind Tottenham in 4th and suffered yet another defeat this weekend.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ran riot against them as the Cityzens were comfortable 4-1 winners at the Etihad in a game which saw the Reds have an unexpected second-half defensive collapse similar to what happened against Real Madrid during the first leg at Anfield. The Merseyside club has been hugely inconsistent this season and have had their own injury crisis as they have missed key players for the most part of this season, especially in the midfield.
The game against Chelsea maybe provides an opportunity for the Reds to get a huge win under their belt as a confidence boost for the remainder of the season as they still have an outside chance of securing Champions League football for next season. As for the Blues, it is also a crucial game as a defeat on Tuesday would end their hopes of finishing in the Champions League places even though it looks unlikely unless they win each of their remaining 11 games from now until the end of the season.
When & Where?
Date: 4th April 2023.
Time: 7:00 PM.
Venue: Stamford Bridge.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Assistants: Gary Beswick, Dan Cook.
Fourth official: Andre Marriner.
VAR: Chris Kavanagh.
Assistant VAR: Nick Greenhalgh.
The hosts will be without Armando Broja, Thiago Silva, Edouard Mendy, Azpilicueta and Aubameyang for this game as it comes too early for the 6 players even though they have all returned to minor first-team training. N’golo Kante made his much-awaited return to the pitch in the 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa as the Frenchman played for half an hour and was lively throughout his cameo off the bench.
The 31-year-old could go straight back into the starting XI alongside Enzo for Kovacic. Wesley Fofana and Raheem Sterling are also back in contention to start as the duo took part in the training session on Monday. Mason Mount and Benoit Badiashile also could make their returns to the starting XI as the duo were unused substitutes in the game against Villa.
For Liverpool, Luis Diaz returned to first-team training last week though this game might come too soon for the Colombian as he edges closer to being fully fit after missing out for over 4 months. Thiago, Naby Keita, Calvin Ramsey and Stefan Bajcetic are all ruled out for the game as they nurse their respective injuries.
The lack of depth in midfield could bring Roberto Firmino back into the starting XI to assume his false 9 role behind Darwin Nunez something which Klopp has experimented earlier in the season while Salah and Gakpo are expected to keep their place in the starting XI.
The two teams played out a thrilling 0-0 draw at Anfield in January as both sides had ample opportunities to break the deadlock but failed to capitalize. That result meant neither of the two English heavyweights have been able to take all 3 points off each other in their last 5 competitive meetings while the last 3 have ended in draws.
Bruno Saltor has no previous experience managing a football club which makes his team selection very tricky to predict. The Spaniard may opt to stick with the back 3 or switch to a more attack-minded back 4 to match Liverpool man-to-man. The injury returns of both Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount could mean a switch to a back 4 could well be on the cards as anything less than a win would be enough to lift the mood of the home crowd.
Chelsea were greeted with loud boos after the final whistle was blown at the weekend which calls for the players to step up and a win against Liverpool could be exactly what will be needed to change the mood at the Bridge on Tuesday night.
Liverpool will have to rectify the mistakes made at the Etihad as they were out-classed by their recent fierce rivals. Facing a depleted and managerless Chelsea would not have come at a better time especially after being defeated 4-1 as the pressure is building on Klopp to deliver European football for the Reds next season. They have lost each of their last 3 games which were all away from home and have also lost 5 of their last 7 away games.
This could be an alarming stat for Klopp and Co. who will want all 3 points to continue putting the pressure on the teams above them or they could find themselves 4 points off Brighton who are in 6th place if the Seagulls win against Bournemouth.
Chelsea predicted XI vs Liverpool: Kepa, James, Badiashile, Fofana, Chilwell, Kante, Enzo, Mount, Felix, Madueke, Havertz.
Liverpool predicted XI vs Chelsea: Alisson, Trent, Van Dijk, Konate, Tsimikas, Fabinho, Henderson, Gakpo, Firmino, Salah, Nunez.