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Preview: Liverpool vs. Chelsea - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Premier League clash between Liverpool and Chelsea, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

A potentially pivotal match in the Premier League top-four race takes place at Anfield on Thursday when champions Liverpool welcome Chelsea to Merseyside.

The hosts sit one place and one point behind their visitors, and victory for either team would be enough to lift them into the Champions League spots with fourth-placed West Ham United not in action in midweek.

Match preview

Liverpool's Curtis Jones celebrates scoring against Sheffield United in the Premier League on February 28, 2021© Reuters

The top-four race is not one either of these clubs would have gone into the season hoping to be involved in, and certainly not one they would have expected to be chasing, with ground still to make up at this stage of the campaign.

However, both teams - and Liverpool in particular - have been forced to temper their expectations over the course of the season and securing Champions League football next term is now the sole priority for both as far as their league ambitions are concerned.

Liverpool's slide down the table has been more recent, winning just two games out of 11 prior to Sunday's much-needed 2-0 triumph over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

A Curtis Jones strike and Kean Bryan own goal ensured that the champions ended a four-game losing streak in the Premier League, and the challenge for Jurgen Klopp's side now is to build on that and get their season back on track.

Plenty of problems still exist for Liverpool, though, not least a scarcely-believable run of form at home which has seen them lose their last four Anfield outings.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp pictured on February 16, 2021© Reuters

That is already the worst run Liverpool have suffered since 1923, and incredibly as many home defeats as they had suffered in their first 100 such games under Klopp, and another loss on Thursday would see them fall to five successive home defeats for the first time in their entire history - either in the league or across all competitions.

It would be a remarkably poor record at any time, but becomes even more baffling considering it has come immediately after a 68-game home unbeaten run in the league - the second-longest such streak in English top-flight history.

Liverpool's winless run at Anfield now stretches back seven games to December 16, and they have scored just once in their last five matches at Anfield, having netted in each of their 42 outings prior to that.

Those stats paint a bleak picture, particularly coming up against a Chelsea side that has looked so solid defensively under Thomas Tuchel, but the positive for Liverpool is that they still have time to save their season.

Despite such a poor recent run, only two teams have picked up more home points than the Reds this season, while victory on Thursday would lift them back into the top four and would suddenly make the situation look a lot rosier.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel pictured in February 2021© Reuters

The champions outclassed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the reverse fixture, but Thursday's visitors appear to be a different proposition under Tuchel and only Manchester City have picked up more points over the last six league games.

Indeed, Tuchel is yet to taste defeat since taking over as manager, winning six and drawing three of his nine games at the helm - only Jose Mourinho and Luiz Felipe Scolari, with 10 games and 12 games respectively, have enjoyed longer unbeaten starts as Chelsea boss.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of that is the fact that Chelsea have conceded just two goals in those nine games - they shipped 12 in their final nine under Frank Lampard - giving Tuchel a firm foundation to build upon.

The task now will be to improve the team's balance going forward; while they have only conceded twice, they have also only scored 10 goals in those nine games and drew a blank last time out against Manchester United.

Callum Hudson-Odoi survived a contentious penalty call in that otherwise-uneventful goalless draw at Stamford Bridge - a result which saw Chelsea fail to capitalise on defeats for Leicester City and West Ham United earlier in the weekend.

Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi appears to handle the ball while in action with Manchester United's Mason Greenwood in the Premier League on February 28, 2021© Reuters

The Blues remain one point outside the top four as a result, but they are also just one point above Merseyside duo Liverpool and Everton, both of whom they play in their next two games.

Negative results in those two matches could see them plummet down the table, but they will arrive at Anfield in confident mood given their hosts' recent struggles at home.

Chelsea's away record has also improved lately; they have won four of their five on the road across all competitions under Tuchel, drawing the other, having lost four of their last five away games under Lampard.

The Blues have not won a league game at Anfield since 2014, but they will know what to expect heading into what will be their sixth meeting with Liverpool in the last two seasons.

The two managers will also know each other well having faced off 14 times in the past, with Tuchel winning just two of those and losing nine - the most matches he has lost against anyone in his top-flight managerial career.

Liverpool Premier League form: WLLLLW
Liverpool form (all competitions): LLLWLW

Chelsea Premier League form: WWWWDD
Chelsea form (all competitions): WWWDWD

Team News

Alisson Becker warms up for Liverpool on February 20, 2021© Reuters

Liverpool's lengthy injury list throughout the season has been well publicised, but Klopp could be handed a triple boost ahead of this match.

Alisson Becker sat out against Sheffield United on compassionate grounds following the tragic death of his father in a swimming accident in Brazil last week, but the goalkeeper is expected to return for this match.

Alisson's compatriot Fabinho is also in line to return, although Klopp must make a decision whether to use him in midfield or in defence, where Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak have formed the Reds' 18th different centre-back partnership of the season over the last game-and-a-half.

Kabak in particular looked shaky against Everton and Sheffield United, and Klopp could therefore lean towards Phillips keeping his place alongside Fabinho at the heart of the defence.

The other potential returnee is Diogo Jota, who missed the Sheffield United game through illness but has now recovered from the knee injury which has kept him out since December.

The Portuguese attacker is unlikely to start even if he has overcome his illness, but he could be used off the bench to give one of the front three a much-needed rest.

Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Caoimhin Kelleher all remain sidelined for the hosts.

Chelsea, by contrast, have almost a clean bill of health with Thiago Silva and Tammy Abraham their only fitness concerns.

Hudson-Odoi was taken off at half time against Manchester United and was spotted with an ice pack on his knee, but Tuchel has eased concerns over his fitness and he should be available for this match.

Silva is now back in training but Thursday's match could come too soon for him to start, while Abraham has also emerged as a doubt due to an ankle problem and will be assessed having been left out of the matchday squad entirely at the weekend.

Whether Abraham is passed fit or not, Tuchel has plenty of decisions to make in the attacking areas, with Timo Werner also only featuring off the bench and Kai Havertz left as an unused sub against Man United.

Olivier Giroud, who has scored seven Premier League goals against Liverpool including four at Anfield, will be hopeful of keeping his place up front, but he is one of many players whose position looks uncertain with such depth available to Tuchel.

Reece James, Christian Pulisic, Werner, Marcos Alonso, Kurt Zouma, Havertz and Jorginho were all on the bench against Manchester United at the weekend and will hope to benefit from any rotation to keep the squad fresh.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson; Thiago, Wijnaldum, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Kante, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount, Giroud, Werner

Head To Head

Liverpool have dominated this fixture in recent years, winning five of the last six meetings across all competitions and each of the last four in the Premier League.

Another victory on Thursday would see the Reds become only the second team to win five Premier League games in a row against Chelsea, while they have only lost one of the last 12 top-flight editions of this fixture.

The corresponding fixture last season was a 5-3 thriller which ended with Liverpool finally getting their hands on the Premier League trophy, while the reverse fixture in September saw Sadio Mane score a brace as Liverpool eased to a 2-0 win.

SM words green background

We say: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea

The last time Chelsea visited Anfield there were goals galore and Liverpool ended the night by lifting the Premier League trophy aloft. Thursday's showdown is likely to be very different.

The fortress that was Anfield has been destroyed in the space of four games, while it is difficult to see this Chelsea team shipping five goals under Tuchel given the watertight start they have made since the new boss took over.

There have only been three goalless draws between these two sides in the Premier League era, so goals are likely, but while a top-four spot awaits the winner, defeat would be a huge blow for either side's Champions League hopes and we therefore expect this one to end all square.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data

Video prediction

Watch the Sports Mole Football Shorts prediction for this game below:

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Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel pictured in February 2021
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