Chelsea hopes its' new No. 11 Oscar can score a goal or two against Liverpool on Sunday on the 11th day of the 11th month in the 11th week of the season.
Who: Liverpool at Chelsea
What: English Premier League, Week 11
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England, United Kingdom
When: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Weather: Partly cloudy (Weather Channel forecast)
Time: 16:00 p.m. GMT/11:00 a.m. ET/8:00 a.m. PT
Television: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Deportes (USA), Sky Sports 1/HD, Sky 3D (UK)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM Satellite Radio Channel 94 (Internet 960)
Referee: Howard Webb
2-Way Odds: Chelsea Pick -220, Liverpool Pick +180
2-Way ½-Goal Odds: Chelsea -½ -105, Liverpool +½ -115
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -105, Liverpool +275, Draw +220
Total: Over 2½ -130, Under 2½ +110
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.91, Liverpool 3.80, Draw 3.50
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.65, Under 2½ 2.10
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 91/100, Liverpool 14/5, Draw 5/2
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 13/20, Under 2½ 11/10
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
Liverpool travels to west London Saturday to face Chelsea in what on paper this season looks like a mismatch but in reality should be a tough game for the home team.
The twelfth-place Reds (2-5-3; 13 goals for, 15 goals against) have recently been a thorn in the Blues’ side winning four straight against Chelsea in English Premier League play and holding them to eight goals in the last eight meetings in all competitions.
Liverpool’s last loss to the Blues came in the FA Cup final last season in Wembley Stadium while its last league loss at Stamford Bridge was all the way back in 2009.
In UEFA Europa League action on Thursday, Liverpool lost 1-0 to Anzhi Makhachkala but Reds' manager Brendan Rodgers left most of his big guns at home and had nine Englishmen in his starting XI with an average age of less than 24.
Usual starters Steven Gerrard, Luis Suárez, Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Raheem Sterling, José Enrique, Joe Allen, Nuri Sahin and goalkeeper Pepe Reina all remained at home to ready themselves for Sunday’s match so you know where Rodgers has put his priorities.
Despite having its worst league start in over 100 years (1910/1911), Liverpool is undefeated in its last five EPL fixtures (2-3-0) and will no doubt try to gain some valuable momentum here with a win over second-place Chelsea (7-2-1, 23 points).
The Blues finally relinquished their season-long hold on first place in the league table last weekend in a 1-1 draw at Swansea City and despite a mid-week, last-second home win over Shakhtar Donetsk in group stage of the UEFA Champions League, the European Champions have been playing some pretty poor defense lately.
What will the final result be in Sunday's Blues-Reds match at the Bridge?
Chelsea has now allowed 14 goals in its last six matches after allowing just four scores in the previous seven games.
On the surface, much of that blame is being laid on the feet of captain John Terry, who has been serving a four-match suspension—and hasn’t been perfectly fit anyway as was shown by his exclusion on Wednesday against Shakhtar—and fellow veteran left-side defender Ashley Cole who has been nursing a hamstring injury.
But in reality, the entire defense has been pretty average of late and has shown some occasional lapses like on Pablo Hernandez’s late game-tying goal for Swansea City last Saturday.
Whether or not manager Roberto Di Matteo’s decision not to use Terry on Wednesday shows "the beginning of the end" for the 31-year-old is still anyone’s guess but I’d say it’s still a little too early to say Terry’s days as a starter in the Blues’ starting XI are over.
For Chelsea on Sunday, stopping Suárez (7 goals)—who had a candidate for Goal of the Year against Newcastle United last weekend in a 1-1 draw—will be paramount as he is the only Reds player with more than one goal and two of the team’s 13 goals so far have come from opposition’s own goals.
On offense, Chelsea, which has scored at least one goal in its’ last 12 games in all competitions, will rely heavily on the flair of its advanced midfield trio of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar and striker and former Reds legend Fernando Torres.
Along with the home crowd and the reality the Blues are now chasing United and will need every point they can to stay on the Red Devils’ heels, Chelsea should have enough juice to garner the three points on Sunday and send the Stamford Bridge crowd home happy.
The Blues are undefeated at home (4-1-0, 12 points) and with Peter Čech in goal and Terry and Cole likely ready to go, expect a better defensive performance from Chelsea.
It’s pretty hard not to pick the Blues to score 11 goals here on the 11th day of the 11th month in the 11th week of the season but with their lucky No. 11 talisman Didier Drogba now plying his wares in China and Oscar now bearing the number, I’ll refrain.
But I do think the Blues can get three goals in this one with Torres netting one against his old teammates, Mata or Oscar getting another and Victor Moses notching the eventual game-clincher as he slowly starts showing why Chelsea bought him over the summer transfer window.
As far as handicapping the total here, lean toward the over as Blues’ games have gone over 9 of the last 10 times—last Saturday’s 1-1 tie against the Swans being the lone exception—and Chelsea has not registered a clean sheet in its last five league matches.
Like Ringo Starr sang, “You know it don’t come easy,” but in the end the Blues should find a way to stop the Scousers in this pivotal match for both clubs.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 3 Liverpool 1
BETS: Chelsea -105, Over 2½ -130
Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11