Sunday evening Chelsea will square up against Liverpool in what will prove to be their last, and possibly most important, match in the year 2013. Having secured four hard fought points from their previous two fixtures, Mourinho will be keen to ensure the Blues get the full haul this go around.
Despite coming out on top in their Boxing Day clash with Swansea, Chelsea’s lack of finishing prowess is cause for concern. Out of a possible 19 shots only a single solo effort from Eden Hazard found the net. In the post-match against Swansea, Mourinho joked that his side’s inability to kill off games is beginning to ‘kill’ him as well. Chelsea’s strike force will need to buck that trend if they hope to get points from Sunday’s match.
As January looms in front of us, rumors of potential striker shopping have increased. Despite glimpses of scoring form, none of our front men have been able to consistently find the net. As soon as Eto’o began to find his feet (and his fitness) he was sidelined with injury. Torres, yet again, gave us hope he was returning to his best, but similarly saw his momentum halted through injury. Unfortunately, Ba has yet to replicate the scoring talents that tempted us to sign him from Newcastle. One thing is certain, Chelsea’s inability to score a second and third goal and put teams to bed needs to be remedied, and quick.
Further back in the lineup, midfield motor Ramires will be forced to sit due to accumulation. This will surely give Mourinho a headache as he will have to find someone capable of matching the Brazilian’s industry in the middle of the park. Mikel will most likely start and, depending on the team’s tactics, be partnered with either Lampard or Essien. It is times like this where Jose must rue the early injury of young prospect Marco van Ginkel.
Chelsea fans take heart in the fact the Blue’s defense has resumed normal service. Not only has the back four kept a clean sheet in the past two games, they haven’t allowed a single shot on goal. This return to form couldn’t come at a better time considering Liverpool’s potent attacking strike force.
Luis Suarez will return to Stamford Bridge hungry to redeem himself from a lackluster performance at the Etihad. Ivanovic will be hoping the Liverpool front man’s appetite will be for goals, and not his flesh; although a red card for the Uruguayan would be a welcome stumbling block for Brendan Roger’s men. Suarez has been in the richest form of his career, and always gives us problems defensively. Chelsea’s back line will need to continue its fine fetter in order to limit his impact on proceedings.
If Mourinho can come away with seven points from the busy festive period that saw him face Liverpool and Arsenal, it will be a coup indeed. For this reason it would stand to reason he will look to press forward and attack. Stamford Bridge has been a great boon thus far this season for Chelsea’s title hopes. Liverpool will likely not sit in and hope for a draw, considering their recent loss. Both sides will be looking for three points. Hopefully, this will open up space for Chelsea’s attacking players, who too often have struggled to break down firmly entrenched opponents.
It will certainly be a great way to sign off the mixed bag that was December. Regardless of concerns about their form, Chelsea has continued to secure points. A win on Sunday would see them go top of the table; and you know what they say about who’s on top after New Years…
Contribution by Trevor Aleo