Our penultimate Premier League fixture takes us further than any other since the restart and offers us the chance to return to London with three pivotal points. Here club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton prepare for a showdown with the champions...
Chelsea have won 18 of our past 44 matches against sides starting the day top of the Premier League table - more than any other side in the competition - and hunger for Champions League football will drive the Blues on tonight as Liverpool prepare to receive silverware that has long eluded them.
With a guard of honour before and an expensively choreographed Premier League trophy presentation in the Kop afterwards, Jurgen Klopp has admitted there are distractions for his team tonight.
‘It’s not the easiest game I ever prepared with the team, to be honest,’ he said, ‘because there are two things tomorrow night; usually I don’t have to think about something else.’
This visit notches up our 89th appearance at Anfield in all competitions, matching nearby Goodison Park as the most visited away ground in the club’s history.
The Blues must now set aside the 14th FA Cup final appearance secured on Sunday, and maintain a steely determination to leave Anfield with all three points for the first time since the title-winning 2014/15 season. Four of the six league and cup visits since that win have finished 1-1. Chelsea were ebullient in our most recent meeting at Stamford Bridge, a 2-0 FA Cup victory.
Chelsea have only lost one of our past nine away games in all competitions against Liverpool
— Key Stat
Two games in five days to seal the CL
Liverpool away, then Wolves at home on Sunday, is the two-pronged sting in the tail of this protracted season. The Blues have occupied a top-four place since October, but could still finish as high as third or as low as fifth depending on outcomes there and elsewhere. A win in either match, though, will secure Champions League football for 2020/21.
Having successfully outsmarted Manchester United with a 3-4-3 formation that bolstered midfield and protected against pace on the flanks, Frank Lampard may revert to 4-3-3 this evening. It has worked pretty well against Jurgen Klopp’s men so far this season, even though two important players were lost to injury in both domestic fixtures. Liverpool have edged possession on each occasion, but in our last meeting Chelsea had seven shots on target compared to the Reds’ five.
In the last week the head coach will have been pleased with the whole team’s character, commitment, and discipline. Against Norwich and Manchester United, the Blues have conceded just three accurate shots on goal. In another show of engagement, Chelsea were whistled up more often than both of those opponents for the first time since the Manchester City win.
Have Reds lowered the rev count?
Jurgen Klopp noted that ‘Liverpool’s identity is intensity’, and that is borne out by the statistics after the newly-crowned champions loosened their belt a notch.
The Merseysiders secured 79 points from their first 27 matches, but have dropped eight points in the five games since clinching the Premier League title, compared to just seven in their previous 40 matches in the competition.
However, since mid-February, Liverpool have won five of their 13 matches in all competitions either side of the lockdown. One of their six defeats was to Chelsea in March.
Jordan Henderson’s absence will again cause issues for the Reds. His numbers on tackling, passing, and goal involvement are not exceptional for a midfield general, but he sets their tempo and energy level, and marshals those around him.
Liverpool have conceded 19 goals in the 20 top-flight games in which their skipper has featured, but 10 goals in the six he has missed – a leap of 76 per cent from 0.95 to 1.67 per game. The loss of their talismanic middleman may also help explain an increase in misplaced passes, especially at the back. Chelsea have found the Reds’ net in 20 of our past 21 meetings, and are second top scorers on the road this season.
Blues’ record intact
Chelsea’s Premier League record of 18 home wins in a season, set in the 2005/06 back-to-back title season and equalled by Manchester United (in 2010/11) and Manchester City (2011/12 and 2018/19), will stand for another season after Liverpool drew with Burnley at Anfield 11 days ago.
Following that, the Reds’ defeat at Arsenal a week ago was their third of the season, and ended their hopes of surpassing or matching Manchester City’s record of 100 points.
|Liverpool||93||2019/20 current season|
(38-game seasons only.)
Liverpool remain unbeaten on their own soil going into this last game, but are still a way off equalling Chelsea’s 86-game home run, a Premier League high set between March 2004 and October 2008. The Blues can end that quest tonight, as well as preventing the hosts setting a new club record of 31 top-flight wins in a 38-game season.
Welcome to the Premier League champions club
Liverpool’s success means that seven of the 49 teams to have competed in the Premier League have now won it.
|Manchester United||13||2012/13 (most recent)|
Champions League qualification becoming clearer
While Chelsea were reaching another cup final, the carousel of the Premier League weekend continued to titillate, with Tottenham beating fourth-placed Leicester.
With that, the Foxes’ maximum possible points total dipped to 65, so three points for the Blues at Anfield or at home to Wolves on the final day would secure Champions League football next season.
Conquered semi-finalists Manchester United entertain West Ham tonight before traveling to face Brendan Rodgers’ men on Sunday. A win for the Hammers would leave Chelsea needing only one point to finish in the top four.
Wolves beat Crystal Palace on Monday, but will arrive at the Bridge for the final day still seeking points for a Europa League berth. Arsenal’s defeat at Aston Villa yesterday means only Tottenham can still overtake the Black Country club.
Take your Pick tonight
For tonight’s match live coverage has been opened up to non-subscriber access through the Pick channel, viewable at Freeview channel 11 (standard definition only), Freesat 147, Sky 159, and Virgin Media 165 (all high definition).
London bragging rights retained
Success against Norwich eight days ago took Chelsea to 63 points, a total out of reach of any rival from the capital this season. The Blues have now been the leading lights in London 23 times since 1905, and for 13 of the past 16 campaigns. The anomalies were 2011/12, when we had the consolation of the Champions League, 2017/18 when we won the FA Cup for the eighth time, and 2015/16.
|Arsenal||48||2015/16 (most recent)|
Chelsea saw out the 3-1 semi-final victory over Manchester United with homegrown players comprising half the outfield team. Mason Mount, who was arguably man of the match and scored his first goal since March, has now played 49 matches in all competitions this season.
Should he feature this evening the 21-year-old will become the first ever Academy graduate to make 50 first team appearances in his debut season – and by some distance.
New window and home extension
This column recently mentioned the possibility of a domestic extension to the transfer window designed to help EFL clubs hit by effects of the pandemic, and last week the Premier League confirmed this will happen. Top-flight clubs can trade at home and abroad from 27 July until 5 October, then with lower league sides in England only until 5pm on 16 October.
A brief history of Guards of Honour
Tonight Chelsea will fulfil a football convention and form a guard of honour for the latest champions of England as they take to the field. It will be a favour returned, as Liverpool lined up and applauded the Blues’ fifth title success at the Bridge in May 2015 (despite Demba Ba famously ending the hopes of Brendan Rodgers et al the previous season).
The famous royal blue is woven into the fabric of this tradition, as Ted Drake’s championship winners in 1955 at Old Trafford were possibly the first to be honoured in such a way, on the insistence of Manchester United boss Matt Busby. The Scot had been a guest player for the Pensioners during World War Two.
Eighteen years later, in April 1973, Chelsea made the same honourable gesture at the Bridge as a mark of respect for United and England legend Bobby Charlton, who was playing his last game.
At Old Trafford in 2005, the appreciation shown by stony-faced Gary Neville and co. towards Jose Mourinho’s newly-crowned champions was more circumspect. ‘People said how unhappy I looked,’ the full-back wrote in his autobiography. ‘I think someone wrote at the time it was like me having to clap burglars into my own home.’
The irony is, of course, Liverpool might equally be appreciative of the Blues, who beat Manchester City to hand the Reds their long-awaited prize.
For absent friends
The last away trip of the league campaign used to be one of the flag days in the football calendar, meaning fancy dress in the stands and reminiscences in some sunny waterhole of another season passed.
With the presence of any supporters in stadiums still to be settled, let alone sojourners from another city, let us raise a mug or glass to those fans who have always gone that extra mile (or thousand) on their travels every campaign.
Anfield will be empty again tonight and philosophers have long mulled over a related question: if Liverpool lifted the Premier League trophy and no one was there in the ground to see it, did it really happen?
Chelsea went through the opposite in the run-in to the Championship success of 1954/55. Crowds thronged to Stamford Bridge and followed Ted Drake’s men around the country, but a month-long electricians’ and engineers’ strike meant newspapers were not printed.
As a consequence, news of the Blues’ progress had no readership whatsoever. The dispute ended just in time on 21 April 1955 – two days before extended write-ups of Chelsea’s long-awaited, title-winning victory over Sheffield Wednesday of 23 April could be published.
Premier League fixtures
Man Utd v West Ham 6pm (Sky Sports)
Liverpool v Chelsea 8.15pm (Sky Sports)