After the 3-0 thrashing we suffered against Bayern Munich, it’s time for the squad and coaches to put their chins up and regain focus. Although we are basically on track to be knocked out come March 18, we still have much to do to reach our goals this season. Currently we sit rather uncomfortably in fourth place, five points behind Leicester City and only four points above our rivals, Manchester United. To make things worse, only five points separate us from Tottenham and Sheffield; six between us and Wolves, and we lead Arsenal by eight. Lampard and the Blues have to be at their top with full focus- no excuses, no setbacks, no nonsense. To start off, we should take a deep look into our upcoming fixture list.
Considering we managed only one (stressful) point against Bournemouth, the pressure mounting on the other fixtures has increased significantly. The next match (albeit a non-Premier League game) will be against Liverpool in the FA Cup knockout stages. Our recent subpar form doesn’t instill the greatest confidence, but Klopp seems to show a lack of care for the FA Cup, hence his previous decision to play a U-23 side against Shrewsbury Town. However, it is very unlikely that he will continue to do so against us. They have virtually won the league at this point, and they will most likely turn their attention towards other competitions like the FA Cup. Glen Johnson, former Blues right-back, spoke on this by saying, “Although Jurgen Klopp’s decision to play the kids against Shrewsbury paid off, I really doubt he’ll do that against Chelsea and I’d expect to see a much stronger side.” This tie will definitely not be a walk in the park as Klopp will most surely change his mind on the competition, and approach with full force. The Red’s shocking 3-0 loss against Watford could likewise be a catalyst and reason to see a full-strength Liverpool squad.
When it comes to the other games, we must step up our quality throughout the pitch. The last time we went against Everton we were embarrassed 3-1 on their turf. The lack of quality we had during that game was appalling, and the infamous Christensen and Zouma pairing created the worst duo we’ve seen in many years. To beat Everton, we will need to utilize our players returning from injury (ex. Pulisic and Loftus-Cheek) and make sure we withstand Everton’s dangerous counter-attacks. If all goes well with injury comebacks, I see Everton and Aston Villa as wins. I predict a 2-1 win against Everton and a 2-0 win against Aston Villa. It is of utter importance that we do not give struggling teams free points.
After those two games, we have two much more formidable fixtures against Bayern and Manchester City. The 3-0 loss against Bayern prematurely dictated our knockout, so I believe Lampard will not take this game as seriously and will play a weaker side to rest our important players for the league. This takes us to our game against Manchester City. After renewed confidence from their victory at the Bernabeu, City will likely be on better form than they were earlier in the year. We will have to hope that all our impactful players will be fit for that game. Despite his recent lack of form, Kante is necessary for that game and so is Christian Pulisic. These two alone can dictate a game from their specific areas, even without full fitness. If our injured players make a return by this time, our aim should be to get at least a draw, but a win would be massive.
What must be stressed is consistency- it is absolutely essential in order to maintain fourth place. Fortunately, after the Manchester City game, our opponents will be less menacing, bar our match against Liverpool at Anfield. We simply cannot accept more than one loss to ensure our goals will be met by the end of the season. The Liverpool game will be an intense and brutal challenge, but a winning streak versus the slightly weaker teams in the league will positively prepare the lads for a strong showing.
The only way to achieve these goals, however, is to adapt and evolve. Every game we’ve played this season has shown how horrible we are at being clinical– nearly every match we’ve had around 20 shots. Unfortunately, despite all these chances we still only average around 1-3 goals. If we don’t increase our goal percentage, we will struggle and suffer even against weaker teams. If Lampard can get this team to finish consistently, we won’t have many problems up front. Even with our mediocre defense, we could win games with the combination of great finishing and numerous chances.