Chelsea welcome Liverpool to Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon for a match with possible top-four ramifications. While both sides have cup finals to look forward after the Premier League season ends on 13 May, Sunday’s match carries great importance for both sides.
While Chelsea’s hopes of finishing in the top four looked very bleak a month ago after a defeat to Tottenham, a victory over Liverpool would make those hopes look much more promising. A win on Sunday would put the Blues within three points of Liverpool with a match in hand against Huddersfield on Wednesday.
It’s entire possible that Chelsea could go in to the final match of the season level on points with Liverpool, albeit with an inferior goal differential.
Liverpool are in a much simpler situation. Beat Chelsea on Sunday, and Liverpool guarantee themselves Champions League football next season regardless of whether or not they win this season’s Champions League. Sunday’s match itself, though, may not be quite so simple for the visitors.
Liverpool booked their place in the Champions League final by defeating Roma 7-6 on aggregate. But on the night, Liverpool fell to the Giallorossi by the score of 4-2, surviving a late three-goal push by the hosts in Rome to survive and advance.
But after such an emotional match, injuries may force manager Jurgen Klopp to select the same side that played last Wednesday.
Injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Emre Can, and Adam Lallana leaves Klopp short of rotation options in midfield, and Joel Matip’s absence and an injury doubt for Joe Gomez leaves Klopp short of options at the back.
The question for Liverpool will be whether they can recover from such an intense match to once again go away from home and get a result, particularly given the high-energy style that they play.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has far fewer concerns. Only David Luiz and Ethan Ampadu remain out for Sunday’s match, and with Liverpool playing variations on 4-3-3 with a high press, Conte will probably opt for a three-man midfield for solidity and a front two of Olivier Giroud and Eden Hazard.
With Gary Cahill back in favour and playing well in the centre of the back three, the only big decision to make will be at left wing back. Marcos Alonso is available after his three-match suspension, but Emerson has played well in his place. With Antonio Rudiger and Emerson having both played at Roma with Mohamed Salah, Conte may choose to go with two defenders on the left who might be more familiar with the PFA Player of the Year.
Aside from the FA Cup Final in two weeks, this might be the biggest match of Chelsea’s season. Chelsea must win to keep their hopes of finishing in the top four intact. Any other result will all but ensure that Chelsea will be playing on Thursday nights next season.