Who: Chelsea FC vs. Liverpool FC
What: English Premier League Week 19
Where: Stamford Bridge, West London, England, United Kingdom
When: Sunday, December 29, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast Stamford Bridge
Time: 16:00 GMT/11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Network,NBC Sports Live Extra, Telemundo (US); Sky Sports 1/HD, Sky Sports 3D, Sky Go UK, Sky Sports 1 Ireland, LFC TV Online, NOW TV powered by Sky, BBC One (UK)
Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM FC SIRI 94 (Internet channel 94), BBC Radio Live, TalkSport Radio
Referee: Howard Webb
3-Way Odds: Chelsea Even, Liverpool +270, Draw +250
Total: Over 2½ -170, Under 2½ +130
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 2.10, Liverpool 3.50, Draw 3.50
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.59, Under 2½ 2.30
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 11/10, Liverpool 5/2, Draw 5/2
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 10/15, Under 2½ 13/10
Alternate Odds: Chelsea Pick -185, Liverpool Pick +145
Over 3½ +165, Under 3½ -220
Odds To Win EPL: Chelsea 9/2, Liverpool 6/1
Odds To Be Relegated: Chelsea 2500/1, Liverpool 1000/1
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -100, Liverpool +240, Draw +220
Total: Over 3 +110, Under 3 -130
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
Possible Starting XIs
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Schurrle, Hazard, Willian; Torres
Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Cissokho; Lucas, Allen, Henderson; Sterling, Coutinho, Suarez
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten mark at Stamford Bridge will really be put to the test on Sunday when Liverpool and Luis Suarez roll into West London to lock horns with the Blues in this battle of English Premier League heavyweights.
The match will mark the halfway point (19 games) of the season, and with eight teams all within eight points of first-place Arsenal (12-3-3, 39 points) heading into action this weekend, the second half is setting up to be a very entertaining ride from now until May 11, with all the usual suspects and a couple of surprises (Everton and Newcastle United) expected to fight for both the league title and UEFA Champions League spots.
Liverpool (11-3-4, 43 goals for, 21 goals against) enters the game in fourth place in the Premier League table, just a mere point behind host and third-place Chelsea (37-36) and although the Reds have been impressive—and actually sat in first place for a couple of minutes there—Brendan Rodgers and his gang have a very average 3-3-3 record (18-15 goals) away from Anfield.
But as all Blues fans know, the Reds always play Chelsea tough (4-3-3 last 10 meetings in all competitions) and you’d have to go all the way back to May 5, 2010 to find the last time that the Blues defeated Liverpool in a Premier League fixture. Last season’s two meetings both ended in draws (2-2, 1-1) with the game at SW6 on Nov. 11 ending deadlocked after a second-half Suarez equalizer.
For Chelsea—as for all clubs in England’s top flight as of late—trying to put the reins on Suarez, who leads the league with 19 goals, will obviously be the key. The Reds are second in the league with 43 goals but most likely will be without two of their bigger scoring threats as captain Steven Gerrard (hamstring) and former Blues striker Daniel Sturridge (ankle) continue to heal from injuries.
And going up against goalkeeper Petr Cech, captain John Terry and one of the best defenses in the EPL—Chelsea (11-4-3) has allowed 18 goals, tied with Arsenal for the second-lowest total in the league behind Everton (17)—Liverpool will have to be at its best but if any team is going to put an end to The Special One’s special run in West London, it will be a team like the Reds.
Liverpool hasn’t had the kind of season it has had just because of Suarez’s stellar play. The play of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling, among others, has the Reds and their legions of fans thinking the club can actually make a run at the Premier League title and secure a precious Champions League spot.
But injury woes are, and should be, of concern to Rodgers heading into this showdown as besides Gerrard and Sturridge, Jon Flanagan (hamstring), Jose Enrique (knee) and Sebastian Coates are all out, while Victor Moses is ineligible to play in the game because of the terms of his Chelsea loan contract.
The Blues will be without midfielders Ramires (suspension) and Marco van Ginkel (knee), with the Brazilian picking up the suspension for his fifth yellow card of the season in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Swansea City on Boxing Day, courtesy of an Eden Hazard goal. “An Eden Hazard goal.” Try saying that quickly five times while pondering the meaning of Life and eating leftover yams.
On Boxing Day, Liverpool became Manchester City’s latest victim at the Etihad Stadium, losing to the Sky Blues, 2-1, in a somewhat controversial game in which a questionable offside call may have cost the visitors a draw and a possibly very valuable point.
So the poor Reds come off of a game playing a team that seemingly never loses on its sacred home soil in City (9-0-0 home, 37-6 goals) and then, just four days later, have to play a team with a manager who has never lost a league game at home and which has its own stellar 8-1-0 record as a host (20-7 goals) this season? Happy holidays. The complaint box is in the back, Mr. Henry.
But all is not lost for Liverpool, as despite the recent Champions and Europa League silverware, Chelsea’s form is still about as choppy as the peat-stained waters of Loch Ness in November, and if Sunderland and Newcastle can be bees in your bonnet, well, then pretty much every game is like Fear and Loathing in the Premier League for the Blues, as us legions of blue-blooded, celery-eating zombies are now well aware.
And when you actually hear that Chelsea hasn’t had a goal scored by a striker in a road league game all calendar year and you look up and see that your calendar is on December 27 and then realize there are no more road games and that this is the last one of 2013, well...
Houston, we have a problem.
But to be fair to the Blues and club management, they’ve only known about the problem for about three years, have limited funds with which to work and didn’t have any real “fallback strikers” they could count on. So cut ‘em a little slack would you? It’s not like anyone’s talked about it.
Anyway, back to reality and this highly-anticipated and possibly great game but, then again, I remember thinking Chelsea-Manchester United (0-0, Aug. 26) and Chelsea-Arsenal (0-0, Dec. 23) would be great games, but the proof is in the figgy pudding...they were both extremely boring, brother.
One thing people will be looking at in handicapping this match is who Mourinho starts in his central midfield in Ramires’ absence. Much will also be made about Suarez and his tasting of Branislav Ivanovic’s tricep last season as well as Mourinho’s streak and Chelsea’s mini two-game clean-sheet run.
Once the opening whistle is blown at Stamford Bridge, all of this will be forgotten and, as always, these two teams will simply be fighting not to lose, and to win a point or three and to not slip from their lofty perches on the Premier League table as we approach a new year.
Liverpool holds a slight 4-3-3 edge (17-16 goals) in the last 10 meetings in all competitions in the series. Noteworthy is the fact that the Reds are 9-1-0 after a loss in their last 10, and with the league’s most dangerous player and Chelsea having last beat Liverpool in May of 2010, it’s easy to make a case for the healthy underdogs (+270) from Merseyside here.
But no, no, no, Emily, the Mourinho Effect is too strong and The Bridge too powerful, so I will take my chances with the draw (+250) and expect another boring chess match on a soccer pitch with a limited number of quality shots and highlights in the end.
And if you can find a total of three, it's probably wise to take a shot on the under, but after seeing that number posted earlier, it seems to have dried up to its normal 2½ at some sports books as oddsmakers refined the line from early betting.
And also, I’ll definitely take the over on Howard Webb jokes. A stone-cold lock, sister.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 1 Liverpool 1
BETS: Chelsea-Liverpool Under 2½ +130, Draw +250
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