After an emphatic victory over Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final, attention now turns back to Chelsea’s quest for Champions League football. Frank Lampard knows that three points are all his side requires in order to secure a top-four finish. But with a trip to Anfield to contend with on Wednesday, it is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Liverpool has been somewhat shy of its best form recently, but with two games still left to play, the champions will be eager to cement their status as one of the greatest teams of the Premier League era. A victory against Chelsea will match the all-time record for home wins in a Premier League season (18), while a maximum return of six points from their remaining games will ensure they also match Manchester City’s record for most wins across a 38-game season (32).
Chelsea, meanwhile, is less fixated upon matching the records of its predecessors as the club is still embroiled in a frantic three-horse race for European football. Leicester City appears to be most at risk of squandering its place in the top four but nonetheless, the Blues’ focus will be on ensuring they don’t have to rely on results around them to go their way.
Despite rotating heavily at the weekend, Lampard will have been impressed with the impact his switch to a three-man defence had and as a result, certain individuals will be more hopeful of regaining their spot in the starting 11. Jorginho and Marcos Alonso looked imperious in their respective roles against United and will now have a good claim to start tomorrow evening despite their defensive deficiencies.
One player in desperate need of a rest, however, is Willian. The Brazilian was critical to ensuring Chelsea’s press was well structured and effective at the weekend, but after starting his ninth game in a row Lampard should look towards other options to reduce the risk of injury. With N’Golo Kante having already suffered from the intensive restart schedule, Lampard will be all too aware of the problems associated with overusing certain players.
Kante remains unavailable for selection, whilst fellow midfield compatriots Billy Gilmour and Marco Van Ginkel continue to nurse long-term injury problems.
Liverpool wrapped up the Premier League title in record time and captain Jordan Henderson will be relishing the opportunity to lift the coveted trophy, albeit in front of an empty stadium.
The English midfielder will, however, play no part in tomorrow’s game as he is still suffering from a knee injury sustained against Brighton last week. Jurgen Klopp has also ruled out central defender Joel Matip for the remainder of the campaign after he picked up a toe injury in last month’s Merseyside derby. But veteran midfield stalwart James Milner is “pretty safe” for a return to action following a hamstring injury.
Even though Liverpool have little to play for, this game promises to be nothing short of competitive from start to finish. Whilst revenge for their FA Cup exit, at the hands of The Blues, will surely play a big role in motivating Klopp’s side. It certainly won’t be easy but Chelsea are now within just one win of Champions League football next season.