Chelsea have scored in each of the past 11 Premier League games against Liverpool.
The Blues have kept just one clean sheet in our past 13 league matches against the Reds. The most marked difference between tonight’s combatants is in defence. Both have found the net freely, but Liverpool’s back-line has proved far more porous.
Premier League most goals scored
Man City 43
Man Utd 33
Premier League fewest goals conceded
Man Utd 21
Man City 28
West Brom 28
Chelsea’s success against Hull City 10 days ago extended the gap at the top to eight points over Arsenal and Tottenham – the first time since August 2009 three clubs from the capital topped the table after a match week.
It also meant a Premier League side had reached 55 points after 22 games for only the fourth time. The Blues account for three for those occasions: in 2004/05, 2005/06 and this season.
Another minor record was set against the Tigers: Diego Costa’s stoppage-time strike, measured at 51 minutes and 35 seconds, is the latest first-half goal since Opta began recording exact times in 2006/07.
Premier League top scorers
Diego Costa (Chelsea) 15
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) 15
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd) 14
Harry Kane (Tottenham) 13
Jermain Defoe (Sunderland) 12
Romelu Lukaku (Everton) 12
Premier League most clean sheets
Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea) 13
Fraser Forster (Southampton) 8
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) 8
Petr Cech (Arsenal) 7
David De Gea (Man Utd) 7
Conte’s side are 25 points better off against last season’s comparative results, with 30 more points accrued than at the same stage in 2015/16.
The next best of our top-six rivals in like-for-like fixtures is Man United with an improvement of eight. Liverpool are seven better off, City six, Arsenal four and Tottenham three.
The Reds still have the fifth-best home record in the top flight, despite playing one fewer home game as they switched with Burnley on the opening weekend because of stadium redevelopment. Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and the Clarets – the Blues’ next league hosts – are above them in the ‘home’ table.
Antonio Conte switched to 3-4-3 following successive league defeats to the Reds and Gunners, the leaders have set a scorching pace, winning 15 of 16 Premier League matches.
No other side has been able to live with it. The two rivals that prompted the tactical shift have both taken 11 points fewer than the Blues. With Tottenham the figure is 15, Manchester United 18, and City 22.
Liverpool have fared very well against rivals for a top-four place but dropped points not just against bottom-club Swansea, but Burnley and Bournemouth too.
Top six mini league
Pld W D L F A Pts
Liverpool 6 3 3 0 9 6 12
Tottenham 7 2 3 2 9 7 9
Chelsea 6 3 0 3 10 9 9
Man City 6 2 1 3 7 10 7
Man Utd 6 1 3 2 4 8 6
Arsenal 5 1 2 2 9 8 5
It turned out to be unfortunate timing when Jurgen Klopp said on New Year’s Eve how ‘annoying’ it must be for Chelsea to have won 13 on the trot ‘and see one team [Liverpool] still only six points behind them.’
Tonight’s match will be the Merseysiders’ ninth since that statement (it is Chelsea’s sixth) and they have slipped to 10 points adrift, winning one (in the cup against Plymouth), drawing three, and losing four. Their two clean sheets in 2017 have both been against the Pilgrims in the FA Cup.
In the past few weeks the highly-rated German coach has also come under fire about his training and tactical approaches, especially since their lethargic home defeat by Swansea defeat. Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher observed his former side ‘look like they’ve run out of energy and legs. Is that down to the intensity that they play at? That they train at?’
Other, less friendly fire came from international coach Raymond Verheijen, who claims Klopp’s gegenpressing approach always burns teams out. Sir Alex Ferguson had also cast doubt on whether a high-pressing side can sustain their intensity over a whole campaign.
Armed with statistics indicating his team are running and sprinting almost as much when they were winning games, Klopp disputes physical fatigue, arguing tiredness of mind is the real issue, specifically decision-making.
After exiting of the League Cup against Southampton on Wednesday he also blamed the wind along the Anfield Road. A certain Rodgers and Hammerstein lyric (via Gerry and the Pacemakers) might have handy advice on how to deal with weather such as that.
Another flat home performance against Wolves at the weekend, though, raised further suggestions the Reds cannot find the keys when the bus is parked in front of goal; that there is no ‘plan b’. Yet if one rival team, other than United or Everton, might prompt Liverpool to raise their game, it is Chelsea. Images of Steven Gerrard miscontrolling the ball and Demba Ba ending their titles hopes are still raw in L4.
One rare distraction for those following tonight’s action will be the rumours and confirmations of player moves as the transfer window closes at 11pm tonight. The last time games were scheduled the same night as deals were being finalised was 2012. That deadline day, the Blues bought Kevin De Bruyne and Patrick Bamford and drew 1-1 at Swansea.
The draw for round five of the FA Cup means the Blues lock horns with Wolves to decide who makes it to the quarter-finals stage. It is our fourth meeting in this competition; the Blues have previously won two ties and lost one.
In the FA Youth Cup, the young Blues’ postponed round-five tie against Sheffield Wednesday will now kick off at 7.05pm on Wednesday at Aldershot Town’s stadium, tickets £3, £1 concessions.
Chelsea TV will broadcast the game live as the Under-18s continue their attempt to win the prestigious title for the fourth time in a row and the eighth in our history.
Meanwhile the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, west Africa, draws to a close on Sunday. As Egypt have progressed to a semi-final on Wednesday in Libreville against Bertrand Traore’s Burkina Faso, it is touch and go whether Arsenal will have Pharaohs’ middle man Mohamed Elneny available for our Saturday lunchtime showdown. Granit Xhaka, who is suspended, as well as injured Santi Cazorla, have already been stripped from the Gunners’ central midfield for the trip across town. Arsene Wenger is also banned from the touchline.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS FRIDAY AND WEEKEND…
Chelsea’s 50th league victory against Liverpool, taking the league leaders 13 points clear of the Reds.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Arsenal v Watford 7.45pm
Bournemouth v Crystal Palace 7.45pm
Burnley v Leicester 7.45pm
Liverpool v Chelsea 8pm - BT Sport
Middlesbrough v West Brom 7.45pm
Sunderland v Tottenham 7.45pm
Swansea v Southampton 7.45pm
Manchester United v Hull 8pm
Stoke City v Everton 8pm
West Ham v Manchester City 7.45pm - BT Sport
Premier League table - top
Last Updated: 02:00, Thu 22 Mar
CHELSEA IN NUMBERS
A Premier League club has had 55 or more points after 22 games on four occasions, with Chelsea responsible for three of those in 2004/05 (55), 2005/06 (61) and 2016/17 (55).
The Blues are 25 points better off compared with results against the equivalent opposition last season.
Antonio Conte has won 60 of his past 71 league games with Juventus and Chelsea which is an 84.5 per cent win rate.
We have used fewer players (20) than any other team in the Premier League in 2016/17.
Chelsea have won 14 of the past 15 games in competitions.
Chelsea’s past six games
Premier League scorers
Diego Costa 15, Hazard 9 (2 pens),
Pedro 5, Willian 5, Alonso 3, Cahill 3, Moses 3, Batshuayi 1, Fabregas 1, Kante 1, own goal 1.
League games since
An away win: 0
An away draw: 9
An away defeat: 1
If selected, David Luiz will make his 100 Premier League appearance for the Blues.
The next match Cesc Fabregas begins will be his 100th start for the club in all competitions.
LIVERPOOL BY NUMBERS
18 League championships, last in 1990
7 FA Cups, last in 2006
8 League Cups, last in 2012
15 FA Charity/Community Shields (5 shared), last in 2006
5 European Cups, last in 2005
3 UEFA Cups, last in 2001
3 UEFA Super Cups, last in 2005
The Reds last top-flight championship was in the old First Division 27 years ago when Kenny Dalglish was manager. A points total of 79 was enough to lift the trophy in 1990.
Liverpool have won one of their eight games in 2017 at Plymouth), their worst start to a calendar year since 1993.
Liverpool have lost three consecutive games at Anfield for the first time since October 2012 (under Brendan Rodgers).
Jurgen Klopp has suffered three consecutive home defeats as a manager for the first time since April 2007, when he was in charge of German side FSV Mainz.
Liverpool were the first club to score 50 Premier League goals this season. It took them nine games more in 2015/16.
Klopp’s side have scored 26 first-half goals in the Premier League this term, seven more than any other side.
Liverpool have won 23 points from a possible 30 at home this season, with seven wins against Leicester, Hull, West Brom, Watford, Sunderland, Stoke and Manchester City, two draws with Manchester United and West Ham and one defeat to Swansea.
Klopp has lost one of his 14 Premier League meetings with the other ‘big six’ teams (Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham). He’s won six and drawn seven of those matches.
James Milner has never lost a Premier League match in which he has scored – 46 matches, won 37, drawn 9.
Manager Jurgen Klopp
Days in charge: 481
LIVERPOOL'S LAST 10 YEAR LEAGUE HISTORY
Last six games
11 Jan Southampton (a) EFL Cup SF1 L 0-1
15 Jan Manchester United (a) D 1-1
18 Jan Plymouth (a) FA Cup 3 Rep W 1-0
21 Jan Swansea (h) L 2-3
25 Jan Southampton (h) EFL Cup SF2 L 0-1
28 Jan Wolves (h) FA Cup 4 L 1-2
Premier League scorers
Mane 9, Firmino 8, Lallana 7, Milner 6 (6 pens), Coutinho 5, Origi 4, Can 3, Lovren 2, Sturridge 2, Wijnaldum 2, Henderson 1, Matip 1, own goal 1.
League games since
A home win: 1
A home draw: 3
A home defeat: 0
CHELSEA’S JANUARY MOVES
Nathan Ake Bournemouth, loan recall
John Mikel Obi Tianjin TEDA
Oscar Shanghai SIPG
Patrick Bamford Middlesbrough
Mukhtar Ali Vitesse Arnhem, loan
Nathan Baxter Solihull Moors, loan
Izzy Brown Huddersfield, loan
Charlie Colkett Swindon, loan
Dion Conroy Swindon, loan
Fankaty Dabo Swindon, loan
Jay Dasilva Charlton, loan
Islam Feruz Swindon, loan
Jhoao Rodriguez Cortulua, loan
Fikayo Tomori Brighton, loan
Marco van Ginkel PSV, loan
LIVERPOOL’S JANUARY MOVES
Cameron Brannagan Fleetwood, loan
Tiago Ilori Reading
Joe Maguire Fleetwood
Pedro Chirivella Go Ahead Eagles, loan
Lazar Markovic Hull, loan
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Mark Clattenburg is the referee. His one previous Blues game this season was the win against Burnley in August.
There are no suspensions.
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