It’s hard to imagine, but by the end of the night on 31 January, Chelsea could very well be primed to lift the Premier League trophy at the end of season.
Tuesday night, the Blues travel to Anfield to face a Liverpool side who, just a month ago, were considered their closest rivals for the title.
However, a terrible run for Liverpool since the turn of the year, coupled with Chelsea continuing to rattle off wins, sees the Merseysiders 10 points behind their London rivals when the two teams meet for the second time this season.
The first meeting of the two sides at Stamford Bridge back in September started the soul-searching of Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.
A 2-1 defeat had Conte commenting on how his team didn’t play as a cohesive unit and how their opponents on the day looked much more like a team.
The Liverpool defeat combined with defeat the following week against Arsenal prompted the infamous tactical switch, and the rest is history.
During that same time period, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side did their best to keep pace with the Blues 13-match winning streak by dropping just six points in that same time period from 1 October until the end of the year.
After Liverpool’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City matched Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Stoke City on New Year’s Eve, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp remarked that despite Chelsea’s run of 13 straight wins, it must be annoying for them that they were just six points ahead.
Since that day, Liverpool have managed just one win in the month of January, to Plymouth in an FA Cup third round replay, and are coming off the back of a week that saw them defeated three times at Anfield, including losses to Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers that knocked them out of both domestic cups.
Meanwhile, Chelsea, despite a defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, have picked right up where they left off, rattling off four wins in their last five matches in all competitions and with a win at Anfield could put a sizable 13-point gap between themselves and Liverpool.
Liverpool will be handed a boost, though, as Adam Lallana should once again be fit for the Reds after suffering a rib injury, and Sadio Mane has rejoined the squad after his participation in the African Cup of Nations.
What part Mane will play in Tuesday night’s match has yet to be determined. A delay in travel plans meant that the Senegal international did not return to Liverpool until Monday night, and his fitness will be assessed before the match.
For Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, his squad has picked up no new injuries, while also giving rest to a number of key players in the 4-0 win over Brentford on Saturday.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it makes his team selection less complicated. With Tuesday also being transfer deadline day, Branislav Ivanovic is unlikely to feature as he appears to be nearing a move to Zenit St. Petersburg, and speculation continues to link Asmir Begovic to Bournemouth, so he may also be omitted from the squad.