The Blues continued to scare their manager with a 1-0 win over Swansea City courtesy of and Eden Hazard goal in the first half. Despite the three points keeping them very much in the title race, Jose Mourinho has made it clear that he expects his side to win more emphatically (per chelseafc.com):
They kill me every game, every game I am tired at the end.
At half-time we should all be relaxed with a comfortable score, but time goes on, we didn't score the second goal and you feel that the opponent is keen to risk a bit more and put in a second striker and you are a bit in trouble. The opponent believes, but the boys worked hard defensively and in the last part they looked comfortable and we had control of the game, so a deserved victory and an important victory.
One of the biggest questions in Mourinho’s mind ahead of Liverpool’s visit will be whom to select alongside John Terry at centre-half.
David Luiz has performed admirably in the last two games he has started, and his confidence in closing down opponents should give him the edge over Gary Cahill. However, the Brazilian’s erratic positioning and tendency to wander will plant plenty of doubt in Mourinho’s mind as his side will be facing the league’s in-form striker, Luis Suarez.
Cesar Azpilicueta should return to the side to replace Ashley Cole, while Branislav Ivanovic will retain his place at right-back.
Ramires’ yellow card against Swansea was his fifth of the season, earning him a one-match suspension. Frank Lampard will likely return to the starting XI in his place, alongside John Obi Mikel.
Despite concerns that they are unable to perform at their best when they all start, the Three Amigos of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar worked well together against Swansea. Hazard’s goal saw him singled out for praise after the game, although there was a hint that he may not start against the Scousers as Mourinho described him as “really tired” (per chelseafc.com).
Mata also left the action early on Boxing Day, but not before he had made five key passes, recording the highest accuracy of any of the starting XI at 92 percent. The Spaniard should retain his position on the right of the attack, with Willian waiting in the wings as an impact substitute.
Samuel Eto’o saw his two shots on target saved by Swansea keeper Gerhard Tremmel, and his efforts were appreciated by Mourinho (per chelseafc.com):
Today I can say the biggest responsibility for the lack of goals was the Swansea goalkeeper because he made three or four big saves.
We didn't miss chances, Tremmel made fantastic saves. The first-half save from Eto'o was brilliant, and the first save in the first minute of the second half was the same.
That action was good. David Luiz's pass was good, Mata's control and pass were fantastic and Eto'o attacked the ball perfectly. My striker made the right movement but the goalkeeper made a fantastic save...
This should see him start ahead of Fernando Torres, who is yet to score against his former club. It is likely that Torres will be introduced as a second-half substitute if Chelsea are chasing the game.
The intense rivalry between Chelsea and Liverpool was fostered during Mourinho’s first spell in charge of the Blues, but it has shown little sign of letting up in the six years since he departed.
Brendan Rodgers’ side took the lead against Manchester City at the Etihad on Boxing Day, but they were denied a goal by some poor officiating and subsequently lost 2-1. This defeat will spur them on to continue their excellent record against Chelsea.
Liverpool have won three of the last six meetings between the sides, with the Blues emerging victorious once. However, during Mourinho’s first spell in charge, Chelsea won five of the six Premier League matches against the Scousers (per transfermarkt.co.uk), and The Special One will surely want to extend that record further on Sunday.
Statistics from whoscored.com unless otherwise noted.