How the Threat of Luis Suarez Could Underline Defensive Frailties at Chelsea

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11:  Luis Suarez (C) of Liverpool holds off the challenge of Branislav Ivanovic (L) and Cesar Azpilicueta (R) of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on November 11, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Much of the talk in recent weeks involving Chelsea has been focused on their strikers and an inability to find the back of the net on a consistent basis.

Come Sunday, all eyes will be on one striker at Stamford Bridge, but this time it will be Liverpool's Luis Suarez who will be at the centre of attention, looking to compound the misery of his peers.

While the Blues' frontmen have endured a barren spell in front of goal this term, Liverpool's Uruguayan has been simply irresistible.

He already has 19 Premier League goals to his name in 2013-14—a stat made all the more remarkable considering his season didn't start until late September when he completed a 10-match ban.

That latest suspension came after he was found guilty of biting Branislav Ivanovic the last time these two teams met in April, drawing 2-2 at Anfield. And eight months on, the Chelsea defence could be feeling an altogether more lethal bite from Suarez this time out.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 21: Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea talks with Luis Suarez of Liverpool as they walk in for half time during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on April 21, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Pho
Michael Regan/Getty Images

"He has fantastic numbers [this season]," commented Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho ahead of his team's clash with the Reds. "He didn't start the season because of suspension, but after that he comes and the numbers are fantastic.

"Statistics are sometimes important and [Suarez's] numbers are fantastic."

Indeed, stats can often tell us an interesting story away from the action and, aside from Chelsea's struggles in front of goal, they've also been suffering at the other end.

Successive clean sheets over the Christmas period will give the Blues' back line confidence that they have turned the corner, yet nine goals conceded throughout December in all competitions remains a concern.

Facing a player in such lethal form as Suarez is right now, Sunday's game will be the ultimate acid test to see if it is the case.

It's not just his goals that are of concern, though. Suarez is bringing much more to the table right now, with four assists in his last five outings confirming how vital he has been to Liverpool's cause.

That said, Mourinho refused to label Liverpool a one-man team, admitting Chelsea will need to contend with a lot more than the Uruguayan's threat.

COBHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Manager Jose Mourinho talks to the media during the Chelsea FC Training press conference ahead of tomorrow's UEFA Champions League match against FC Steaua Bucuresti on December 10, 2013 in Cobham, England.  (Photo by Richar
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

"It's fair to say that Liverpool started the season without him and managed to win matches without him," he added. "When he came in, he was a big plus to them, but it's fair to be fair to them and they played very well without him."

It's been a productive Christmas thus far for Mourinho and Chelsea. Four points from a possible six have maintained their title challenge, but perhaps the significance of a victory over Liverpool will ensure it becomes a happy new year, too.

"Everybody knows that in this moment it is Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City in the top four," Mourinho continued. "So when there is a match between any of them, it's about the points you get and what you don't give your direct opponent.

"The pressure this year isn't going to be win the title. It's to get top four. I think it will be hard. I think Man City is the big, big favourite."

If Chelsea can sort out their goals ratio, their prospects for the title will increase significantly. On Sunday, though, it will be their efforts in preventing the opposing striker from finding the back of the net that will be significant.

*All quotes taken first hand unless otherwise stated.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes


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