Having slipped to four points off of Premier League leaders Manchester United, Chelsea will be looking to get their title challenge back on track when Liverpool visit Stamford Bridge in the highlight of the English soccer calendar this weekend.
After an eye-catching, table-topping start to the season, Chelsea have taken just a point from their past two fixtures. And while defeat in controversial circumstances to Manchester United could largely be overlooked, a home draw with Swansea last Saturday represented a significant setback.
Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo has said the new expansive style implemented this season—centered around the trio of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard—may take time to bear fruit.
“Changes need time and in football time is precious,” Di Matteo said, according to Chelsea’s official website. “I believe in something and I want to continue to go that way. The players believe in it, which is the most important factor, and hopefully in the future Chelsea can continue to play in this style.
“There's always a compromise you need to make, but I am 100 per cent sure we will improve that part of our game. Personnel sometimes helps, but the players playing regularly together, and the work that we do, will improve that.
For Sunday’s encounter, Di Matteo could have two of the club’s veterans back in action with John Terry and Ashley Cole set to return from suspension and injury, respectively.
The “new” Chelsea’s teething problems will pale in comparison when compared with the scale of the task Brendan Rodgers faces in order to turn Liverpool back into contenders for the game’s major honors. Despite suffering a setback with a 1-0 Europa League defeat at Anzhi Makhachkala in midweek, there have been encouraging signs in recent weeks that Rodgers’ philosophy is starting to pay dividends.
The Reds have now gone five games without defeat in the Premier League, although, still sitting in the bottom half of the table, Rodgers will doubtless have liked to turn some of the three draws recorded in that sequence into victories.
Rodgers should have former Chelsea defender Glen Johnson back in his squad after a hamstring problem, while goalkeeper Pepe Reina will face a late fitness test on a similar complaint.
D: Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole
M: Ramires, Mikel
Mata, Oscar, Hazard
D: Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique
M: Gerrard, Allen, Sahin
F: Suso, Suarez, Sterling
Prediction: While current form points toward a Chelsea victory, Liverpool have an excellent recent record at Stamford Bridge, winning on three of their last four visits. That may count for little, though, on Sunday.
Liverpool will have to do their best to keep possession and try to expose a Chelsea defense that has at times looked vulnerable this season. However, that may prove difficult given the ability on the ball that runs through the Chelsea side.
Fernando Torres will also doubtless be desperate for a strong showing against the club that he produced the best form of his career.
The Blues may not have it all their own way, but they should have too much for a Liverpool side still in the early stages of development.
Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League encounter kicks-off from Stamford Bridge kicks-off will kick-off at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available later in the day on FoxSoccer2Go.