If Chelsea win on Tuesday, the title is theirs to lose — I’m not prone to hyperbole, but after we kept up our embarrassing run of form by losing to Swansea City and crashing out of both domestic cups in the span of a week, Liverpool no longer look capable of stopping the Blues let alone pushing them for the Premier League crown.
The Reds might be unbeaten in their last four league meetings with the West London outfit, but it’s hard to see that trend continuing with the Anfield outfit at possibly their lowest ebb since Jurgen Klopp arrived on Merseyside. Looking completely bereft of ideas, Liverpool picked up only a solitary win in a January jam packed with matches as both their confidence in themselves and their hopes of overtaking Antonio Conte’s side taking a drastic hit.
After making nine changes to the side that lost out to Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend, Klopp is expected to shake things up again with defenders Dejan Lovren and James Milner, club captain Jordan Henderson, as well as attacking duo Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho all returning to the starting eleven. Question marks hang over the availability of Sadio Mane with the pacey winger en-route to England after Senegal crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations, but there’s doubts over whether he’ll be able to play any part.
Fullback Nathaniel Clyne is another doubt for the hosts with the former Southampton man still carrying a rib problem and should he be sidelined, youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to keep his spot — something that will surely peak the interest of Conte. His side may only have a measly 17-goals on the road this campaign, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find the net; both Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, who have just shy of 25 between them, are expected to run out at Anfield, but I don’t think that will be the major concern for Klopp and company — breaching a back-line that has kept 13 clean sheets this season poses exactly the kind of problem they’re struggling to solve.
“For us, it’s three points, getting back in a positive way of course [and] very important. I know what will happen after the game if we lose and it’s the fourth game in a row – it can always be negative,” explained the German manager when asked what beating the Blues would mean for them. “But, on the other side, even [if] we would have won the last 10 games in a row, it would not make it more likely to beat Chelsea,” mused Klopp, quick to disassociate our current form from the task at hand. “We have no responsibility for Chelsea’s nearly perfect season; we beat them once, the rest we have no influence on. We play now a second time against them and so will try everything to keep the points in Liverpool. Everybody can imagine this.”
And, an imagination is exactly what you’re going to need to see us coming out on top, but to be honest, you don’t have to stretch it too far — if I remember correctly, we’re pretty good at being the underdog. You don’t need to invoke the spirit of Istanbul or anything like that for a league match with Chelsea; they may be favorites, but at Anfield anything can and will happen. This season we’ve struggled against the minnows and dominated the whales — we might not win the title with that kind of inconsistency, but for now, I’ll be pretty happy if we kept it up.