Another day of reckoning in a season-full of them has arrived. Three points for Liverpool today and the final few games become a victory procession for the first league title to go to Anfield in 24 years. A win for Chelsea and it’s squeaky bum time for the team so desperate to get back on the perch.
Just five points separate the sides going into today’s game. If you are to believe Jose Mourinho however, Chelsea are more concerned with beating Atletico Madrid in the Champions League than challenging Liverpool for the league. Brendan Rodgers may be a friend of the Portuguese coach, but he won’t be taken in by Mourinho’s mind games. The Chelsea team selection may be restricted somewhat due to injuries to John Terry and Petr Cech, but whoever takes to the field, they won’t roll over at Anfield.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Flanagan, Skrtel, Sakho, Gerrard, Allen, Lucas, Coutinho, Sterling, Suarez. Subs: Jones, Toure, Agger, Cissokho, Alberto, Aspas, Sturridge.
Chelsea: Schwarzer, Azpilicueta, Kalas, Ivanovic, Cole, Matic, Mikel, Salah, Lampard, Schurrle, Ba. Subs: Hilario, Ake, Cahill, Van Ginkel, Baker, Willian, Torres.
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Full time thoughts – Mourinho may have started without a few key players but those that took to the field in blue executed the game plan to perfection. Liverpool went out looking for a 12th straight win and that played right into Mourinho’s hands. Chelsea were happy to sit back and soak up the pressure and hit Liverpool on the counter. Liverpool remain top, but the advantage is now with Manchester City again. If Pellegrini’s team win their three games they will win the league on goal difference. Again.
Mourinho indicated during the week that the Champions League was the main priority for Chelsea but he forgot to tell his face after Willian’s goal. The master of mind games has done it again, but it was his game plan that won out today, not the codology.
95 mins – Full time.
93 mins – GOAL! 2-0 Chelsea! Willian! As Liverpool press for an equalizer Willian pounces on a loose ball and feeds Torres. The Spaniard races clear and presents Willian with a tap in with Mignolet helpless. Game over. Mourinho celebrates like he actually cares about the Premier League.
92 mins – A yellow card for Jose Mourinho for something he said on the sidelines. Torres follows him into the book with a trip on Sakho.
91 mins- Suarez swerves a shot at Schwarzer which he parries over. Iago Aspas wastes the resultant corner.
90 mins – 4 minutes added on.
89 mins – Chelsea just playing the clock down now. Matic runs the ball into the corner.
85 mins – Suarez with two poor passes in quick succession as Liverpool try and force the game.
83 mins – And now Ba makes way for Fernando Torres. A smattering of boos for the former Liverpool player as Jose Mourinho makes his final substitution.
82 mins – Ba may have scored but other than that he’s having an absolute shocker. He takes far too long to spot Willian who was clear on goal. His eventual pass hits off Ashley Cole.
81 mins – Sterling wins a corner after getting behind the Chelsea defence. Another corner results as Coutinho’s shot is deflected.
80 mins – Coutinho tries to find Suarez but his pass goes just beyond the Uruguayan at the back post. Iago Aspas comes on for John Flanagan as Liverpool make another substitution.
78 mins – Suarez hangs the ball on the penalty spot and Gerrard rises to head weakly into the arms of Schwarzer. The captain is desperate to atone for the error that led to the Chelsea goal.
76 mins – And another from Gerrard. Substitution for Chelsea as Schurrle makes way for Gary Cahill. Mourinho putting more bodies between Liverpool and the Chelsea goal.
74 mins – Gerrard with another shot from outside the box. 15 minutes left to find a breakthrough.
72 mins – Suarez with a sublime turn on the byline to make some space. Nothing comes of his low drive across the box however. Chelsea with almost everyone behind the ball. Impossible to break down.
71 mins – Great ball from Gerrard across the box but Azpilicueta heads away before it can reach anyone in a Liverpool shirt.
68 mins – Suarez getting a bit annoyed with the constant dawdling on the ball that Schwarzer has been guilty of today. Tries to hurry the keeper into utilising the ball quicker.
66 mins – Constant Liverpool pressure results in a Joe Allen shot from distance. Schwarzer comfortable again. Liverpool need to find a way behind the Chelsea defence. Even as I write Gerrard has another unsuccessful pop from outside the box.
62 mins – Schurrle forces a good save from Mignolet who has had little to do in the second half so far.
59 mins – Substitution for Chelsea as Willian on for Salah. The Brazilian works hard and will be an asset defensively for the blues as well as a threat up front.
58 mins – A Joe Allen volley forces Schwarzer into a fine save. In the aftermath of the corner Suarez tries a cheeky lob which is easily managed by the Australian keeper.
57 mins – Substitution for Liverpool as Lucas makes way for Daniel Sturridge. A positive move from Brendand Rodgers.
55 mins – A deflected Gerrard shot is gathered easily by Schwarzer. That’s the Liverpool captain’s second shot in the second half as he attempts to make amends for his slip at the end of the first half.
50 mins – Kalas nudges Sterling just inside the box and the Liverpool forward goes flying. Appeals from the Liverpool fans for a penalty but it was sheer strength from the young centre-half.
50 mins – Hectic first five minutes to the half. Liverpool again with a lot of possession but Chelsea resolute at the back. Sturridge warming up for the home side.
45 mins – Almost a chance for Liverpool already. Suarez knocks it beyond the Chelsea defence but Lucas seems to get in the way of the striker and the ball goes out for a goal kick.
45 mins – The game’s back under way at Anfield.
Half time thoughts: Chelsea have the lead but it’s against the run of play. Demba Ba’s touch has been terrible all day but Gerrard’s slip gifted him an opportunity and he stuck it away well. Liverpool have been well on top in the first half without really creating any major chances. Chelsea have been happy to sit back and soak up the pressure and it’s unlikely that will change in the second half now that they have the lead. Jose Mourinho’s men have executed their game plan to perfection so far.
If you want to win titles you have to prove your worth in games like this, so Brendan Rodgers and his side need to find a way to penetrate the Chelsea defence or Manchester City will sense blood.
45 +2 mins – GOAL 1-0 Chelsea! Demba Ba capitalizes on a slip from Steven Gerrard to race through and slip the ball under Mignolet.
45 + 2 mins – Kalas lost his marker from a Chelsea corner and had the chance to become an instant fan favourite.
45 mins – 3 minutes tacked on to the end of the first half.
42 mins – Another yellow card, again for a tackle on Raheem Sterling. This time for Frank Lampard.
40 mins – A relatively poor ball across the Chelsea defence somehow finds Sterling. The youngster picks out Suarez who curls a shot just over from the edge of the box.
39 mins – The referee Martin Atkinson talks to Chelsea keeper Schwarzer about time-wasting. His card is marked.
37 mins – Shouts for handball from Chelsea as a Salah shot strikes Flanagan. Definitely hits his hand but there was little the defender could to to get his hand out of the way.
35 mins – Fernando Torres looking on from the subs bench. Amazing to think that less than half the money Liverpool made off his sale went on buying Suarez.
30 mins – Chelsea have played quite conservatively so far. They’re content to let Liverpool retain possession and then attempt to create something on the counter.
24 mins – Cole barges into Suarez as he tries to challenge for an aerial ball. Clever from the Uruguayan striker to stand in Cole’s way. As Gerrard lines up the free-kick, the two managers have an amicable chat on the sidelines.
23 mins – Handbags in the corner between Sterling and Azpilicueta. Nothing much in it and the ball goes out for a Liverpool corner.
20 mins – First yellow card of the day. Sterling challenged Mohamed Salah to a race and the Egyptian trips him before he can run at the Chelsea back-line.
19 mins – Coutinho drags a show well wide from the edge of the box. All the game being played in and around the Chelsea defence at the moment.
16 mins – Chelsea can’t secure possession outside their own half so far.
13 mins – Big chance! The corner hits Mikel and Cole half clears off the line. When it eventually comes back in from Suarez, Sakho blasts over.
12 mins – Another corner for Liverpool. The home side has looked liveliest early on.
10 mins – Sublime no-look ball across the box from Suarez. Coutinho could have knocked back in to Joe Allen but opted to take on the shot and hits the side netting from a tight angle.
7 mins – Good tackle from Salas as Sterling looks to accelerate onto a ball behind the Chelsea defence. Corner Liverpool.
5 mins – Ashley Cole forces Mignolet into an early save. Touches the ball past Raheem Sterling on the edge of the box and lets fly. The keeper parries to safety.
3 mins – Schurrle feeling the force of a Glen Johnson challenge. Wincing on the sideline as club doctor Eva Carneiro sees to him. She’s the only team doctor most football fans can name. Funny that.
14:05 – And they’re off!
14:02 – Kop in full voice. Chelsea fans trying to make themselves heard through You’ll Never Walk Alone. Not happening.
14:00 – Teams are in the tunnel. Kalas looks calm, for someone making his full Premier League debut…
13:55 – Now all eyes on Anfield for a crucial clash at the other end of the table. Full house on Merseyside. 10 minutes to kick-off.
13:52- And it’s all over in the North East. Sunderland move up to 17th in the league, Cardiff slip to the bottom of the table. Long journey home for Bluebirds fans.
13:43 – In today’s first game, Sunderland will move above the relegation zone with a comfortable win over fellow strugglers Cardiff. 4-0 at the Stadium of Light with less than 5 mins remaining.
13:35 – Daniel Sturridge starts on the bench against his former club. The striker, with 20 league goals to his name this season, missed last week’s 3-2 victory over Norwich with a hamstring injury.
13:20 – So the teams are in and Mourinho, true to his word, has rested some key players. Cahill and Willian start from the bench, with Kalas and Salah deputising. Tomas Kalas is a Czech 20 year old with zero Premier League experience. Will he be and Ivanovic be the defensive partnership who can muzzle Suarez? Ivanovic sure hopes so.