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    Chelsea vs Liverpool Match Preview


    Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho faces one of the biggest games of his managerial career against Liverpool at Saturday lunchtime, with many people speculating that another defeat could spell the end of his second tenure at the club. In Mourinho's way stands the man whose Borussia Dortmund side famously beat his Real Madrid 4-3 on aggregate to reach the final of the 2013 Champions League, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

    In a match being dubbed as the 'Special One' against the 'Normal One', there has been nothing special or normal about both club's start to the season but a victory for either on Saturday could act as the morale-booster than turns around their season. Liverpool's win over Bournemouth on Wednesday was their first win in six matches, while Chelsea have made their worst ever start to a Premier League season and sit in 15th position.

    Chelsea's hopes will be boosted by Mourinho's presence on the touchline, with the misconduct charge he faces for being sent to the stands during last weekend's defeat to West Ham not likely to be heard until next week. It was Chelsea's fifth defeat of the season in 10 matches and was swiftly followed on Tuesday night by an eighth defeat in 16 matches in all competitions as his side exited the Capital One Cup.



    Mourinho refuted any suggestions that his players are not fully behind him and believes the performance of his team in the defeat to Stoke City showed that anyone who believes in this notion is "stupid". The past two performances, both settled by small margins, have been an improvement on previous displays earlier in the campaign and had it not been for goal-line technology and the assistant referee's flag ruling against them, they could possibly have returned home from Upton Park with all three points.

    He also criticised the observers who say "the results are everything", believing it to be a contradiction to the sentiments his title-winning team often faced last season that "there are other things more important than the results". If Chelsea are going to turn their season around, however, results will need to improve sooner rather than later as they already find themselves trailing fourth place Manchester United by nine points in the hunt for Champions League qualification. With the heated rivalry between Chelsea and Liverpool going back to Mourinho's first spell in charge, there are surely few teams who the Portuguese would like to record a result against more than Saturday's opponents.

    A weekend out of the spotlight will come as a welcome change for Klopp, whose appointment as Liverpool manager has created intrigue up and down the country and made him an instant hero among his home fans. He has endured a tougher start to life in English football than many people predicted, drawing his first three matches, but no longer faces the pressure of recording his first win as Liverpool manager following Wednesday night's Capital One Cup victory over Bournemouth.



    If his first four matches in charge of Liverpool have proved anything, it is that they are tougher to beat than under his predecessor Brendan Rodgers. The Reds are unbeaten in their last 10 matches in all competitions and have only lost twice in 15 matches so far this season. In many ways, this highlights Liverpool's main deficiency. When matches have been tight, as has often been the case this season, they have failed to produce the quality in the final third to turn the draws into victories.

    Many of Liverpool's attacks have been in front of the opposition and they have lacked the pace and invention to get-in-behind stubborn defences such as the ones they faced against Tottenham and in the first 77 minutes against Southampton. On the few occasions where they were successful, they were unable to find the cutting edge that Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke are capable of providing. Benteke proved with his second-half performance against Southampton, when he came on for Divock Origi, just how important he is to the Liverpool team. He never gives defenders a moment's rest and his power, strength and finishing ability could hold the key to any hopes of a Liverpool win on Saturday.



    As Liverpool have a lack of pace in midfield, it is vital that Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno get forward as often as possible to open up teams from wide areas. There tends to be an imbalance in the Liverpool team with too many 'number 10s' such as Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino, and a lack of natural wide players in midfield. Clyne proved how much of an important attacking threat he can be against Bournemouth on Wednesday, when he scored the winning goal, so it is important that he supports James Milner on the right-side of midfield to try to open up the Chelsea back four. 

    Even though Chelsea do find themselves in such a predicament, they have not become a bad team overnight and still possess the vast majority of the side that coasted to the title last season with three matches to go. It is important that Diego Costa recovers from damaged ribs to play a part as he is Chelsea's biggest goal-scoring threat. His display in the win over Arsenal demonstrated the good and bad side of his game, but if he can return to the kind of form of last season when he scored 21 goals for club and country, then Liverpool will have their work cut out in trying to stop him.



    All four of Chelsea's main play-makers of Cesc Fabregas, Oscar, Pedro and Eden Hazard come into the match struggling with form, scoring just two goals between them in the Premier League this season. There is no doubting the quality of the quartet, with Pedro winning the Champions League three times with Barcelona and Hazard being voted PFA Player of the Year in April. If Chelsea are to record only their fourth win in the league this season, they will need one of the four to take the game by the scruff of its neck and provide the moment of quality that has so often been lacking this season.

    Chelsea come into the match with the better head-to-head record, having remained unbeaten during the past eight times the sides have met in all competitions. The last time Liverpool beat Saturday's opponents was in a 4-1 victory at Anfield in May 2012, coming just three days after Chelsea had beaten the Reds 2-1 in the FA Cup final. The clubs also met in the League Cup semi-finals last season, when extra-time was required for Chelsea to win 2-1 on aggregate, with Branislav Ivanovic scoring the solitary goal in a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge.



    Diego Costa could feature for Chelsea after damaging his ribs in the Capital One Cup defeat to Stoke City on Tuesday. Pedro has returned to training following a knock and faces a late fitness test. Nemanja Matic returns to the squad having served a one-match suspension, whilst Branislav Ivanovic and Thibaut Courtois are out with hamstring and knee injuries respectively.

    For Liverpool, Christian Benteke is fit after missing the victory over Bournemouth with a knee problem, but Daniel Sturridge, who has yet to play under Klopp having also sustained a knee injury, is not fit to return. Kolo Toure is also ruled out with a hamstring injury but James Milner is back after serving a one-match suspension. Jordan Henderson (metatarsal), Jon Flanagan, Joe Gomez, Danny Ings (all knee) and Jordan Rossiter (hamstring) all remain long-term absentees.

    Score Prediction: Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool
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    Item Reviewed: Chelsea vs Liverpool Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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