More games and more injuries, but Chelsea are right to be wary of 'wounded' Liverpool

HD Antonio Conte Jurgen Klopp
The Reds will want to end a disastrous month by creating problems for the west Londoners, who have an enjoyed a largely comfortable league season


There was a trace of envy in Jurgen Klopp’s voice as he sat at the top table in Melwood’s press room and provided part of his assessment on Chelsea’s phenomenal campaign under Antonio Conte. “They play the same team nearly all the time,” reflected the Liverpool manager. “I don’t think there are a lot of changes, especially in the Premier League.” 

Chelsea team news and likelu line-up

While Klopp has had to devise solutions for the absence of Philippe Coutinho and Joel Matip due to ankle problems, manage captain Jordan Henderson through a heel issue and wait on Sadio Mane to return from Africa Cup of Nations duty, Tuesday’s visitors to Anfield are yet to have a major selection setback in 2016-17.

Bar a short Diego Costa saga that saw Chelsea’s top marksman omitted from the victory over defending champions Leicester City, Conte has been able to count on the availability of his core personnel and has made the least number of changes to his starting XI in the top flight.

GFX League minutes played Liverpool v Chelsea

His opposite number, meanwhile, has been left to count casualties. Beyond the lengthy spells out, there have ​been interruptions for Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, Georginio Wijnaldum, Dejan Lovren and Emre Can. 

Just as one player returns to full training, another seems to fall into the hands of the medical team. The club’s rearguard has been bolstered by the return of Matip, for example, but now sweats on the fitness of Nathaniel Clyne, who is suffering from abdominal pain. 

Meanwhile, Liverpool’s attacking juggernaut of the autumn has been jaded through a winter of discontent. It’s not hard to detect the root cause given the reality that Roberto Firmino, Coutinho, Lallana and Mane - the Senegal international reporting back to the training complex on Tuesday morning - have not featured in tandem since the 6-1 victory over Watford at the start of November.

HD Joel Matip Jurgen Klopp

HD Roberto Firmino

That's 11 league games without the full combo that had opposition managers, Conte included, declaring the Reds the worst side to face in the division.

The Merseysiders had ended 2016 as Chelsea’s closest challengers, but January has been nightmarish, with fluency and finesse replaced by fatigue and frustration.

One win - the unconvincing FA Cup replay victory at Plymouth Argyle - in eight fixtures has seen Liverpool exit two tournaments and stutter at the top end of the league table. 

Klopp must prove he is world class like Conte

They have conceded three more than they’ve managed to score during this slump of sorts and the mood surrounding the club has greatly shifted. 

The wonder has worn into a sense of waste, but a statement victory can lead to a swing in the right direction.

Chelsea's trip to Anfield is their sixth game since the turn of the year, while it represents Liverpool’s ninth of 2017. 

GFX Liverpool Chelsea starting XI

The Blues may be fresher, but as per Conte’s opinion, recent form only makes their hosts more dangerous opposition.

“Liverpool is a very tough game for us because their focus will be very high,” he said. “After three defeats you are very angry, and we must know this. 

“We have to play our football with good intensity and then we will see what happens.” 

Conte's analysis was that the Reds have been dominant yet unlucky in recent encounters, while Klopp also painted a more vivid picture around their campaign.

“It’s all about the point of view, how you want to see it. If you now only take these three games and want to say everything is rubbish, then I cannot change that,” he explained.

"But for us it's very important that we really still build on the good things and that is, in my understanding, how life should be. If you suffer more [from] the bad things in your day than you can celebrate the good things, then you will always struggle to be a happy person. As human beings we are a little bit like this.

"We made that many mistakes in the season that we are still fourth in the league and we [went] out of the EFL Cup semi-finals - that's it. 

GFX Jurgen Klopp quote

“There are worse things in the world, but I know and I accept that it feels for a lot of people different. But not for me. 

"Thank God I'm closer to the team than all of the rest and we will do everything to be as successful as possible, 100 per cent."

Klopp insists title chase is not motivation for Liverpool

While Klopp may be desirous of Conte’s selection luck this season, the 47-year-old will covet the German’s record against the current top six - with just one defeat in 14 league meetings.

On Tuesday night, Liverpool’s aim will be to continue that trend while clawing into Chelsea’s lead and reminding their competitors that the season isn’t over in January.