There will be professional pride to play for, more so than the points, when Chelsea head north to face Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday.
11 May 2016
Kick-off 21:00 CEST/19:00 GMT
Referee: M. Oliver
Assistants:S. Burt, G. Beswick
Fourth official: P. Tierney
TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS
Liverpool 163 70 37 56
Chelsea 163 56 37 70
Chelsea 1-3 Liverpool 31/10/15 (Premier League)
Chelsea goalscorer: Ramires (4′)
Liverpool goalscorers: P.Coutinho (45+3′, 74′), C. Benteke (83′)
For Liverpool fans, Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho often seems the most likely player to produce a moment of sublime skill to change a match, and he did just that when these two sides met at the Bridge earlier in the season, as the former Inter Milan star bagged a brace.
For Chelsea, the stars of yesteryear seem to be rediscovering their golden touch, with Diego Costa and Eden Hazard in particular looking more like themselves in recent weeks, while some of the youngsters, such as emerging talent Ruben Loftus-Cheek, will be worth keeping an eye on if they are given a chance by Guus Hiddink.
The eighth-placed Reds can still finish high enough in the standings to qualify for next season’s Europa League, but their place in the final of that competition against Sevilla means that they will be focused on beating the Spaniards to lift the trophy and book a spot in the Champions League instead.
Jürgen Klopp’s side got back to winning ways last weekend with a routine 2-0 win over Watford after two disappointing results in recent weeks, namely a 2-2 draw with Newcastle and 3-1 defeat to Swansea.
The German is looking to finish as far up the table as possible and is targeting maximum points in his team’s final two games of the season.
“Our league position isn’t fixed. Fifth is still possible. We will try everything for sure,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“We’ll bring the fittest players. We had a few changes in the last game now most of the players who play tomorrow [Wednesday] had a normal week.
“Then we’ll make a squad for Sunday, then make a squad for Basel. We do it all the time like this.
“What I’ve learned is to rotate! When you’re a young manager, it’s not easy to do this. We’ve used our experience.”
The Blues, meanwhile, are one place but 10 points below in ninth, and victory at Anfield will do little more than provide the satisfaction of beating their rivals and atoning for the 3-1 loss suffered at Stamford Bridge earlier in their ill-fated campaign.
Chelsea boss Hiddink, for whom this will be the penultimate game of his second spell at the club, chose to praise the Reds in the build-up, highlighting their Europa League victory over Klopp’s former side Borussia Dortmund as a good example of their abilities.
“It’s a very energetic team which Klopp has formed,’ the Dutchman said. “They can be very resilient; they were down against Dortmund and made it up in the last second. They have a skilful team but also a strong team.”
Chelsea showed glimpses of their quality in their 3-2 draw with Sunderland last weekend, but the relegation-fighting Black Cats clearly had more desire than the lethargic out-going champions. However, the Blues put in a fiery performance to draw 2-2 with Tottenham, thus denying Spurs the chance to win the title, and their propensity for professional antagonism could see them thwart Liverpool’s league ambitions as well.
In team news, the match will come too soon for Liverpool duo Divock Origi (ankle) and Jordan Henderson (lateral collateral ligament), who are Klopp’s only two fresh injury concerns.
For Chelsea, defender and captain John Terry is suspended following his two yellow cards against Sunderland, while former Barcelona winger Pedro looks set to miss out after picking up a knock, and Loic Remy (groin strain) is also unlikely to feature.