Liverpool, Chelsea in Season’s Defining Battle at Anfield
Two giants of the English game languishing in mid-table obscurity kickoff this weekend’s Premier League action, as Liverpool take on Chelsea at Anfield today
The ninth-placed Reds and 10th-placed Blues only have 28 points to boast from their top-flight outings approaching the midway point of the season, although the hosts hold a game in hand over their capital counterparts.
Only a few days after being forced to witness the “worst” game of his Liverpool career in a 3-0 humbling at Brighton & Hove Albion, Jurgen Klopp got what he wanted in terms of a response when the Reds travelled to Wolverhampton Wanderers for their FA Cup third-round replay on Tuesday.
A wonder strike from Harvey Elliot booked Liverpool’s spot in the fourth round via a 1-0 triumph – and with it another trip to the Amex Stadium to face Brighton – as the Merseyside giants finally claimed their first victory of 2023 at the fourth attempt.
Defeat at the Amex marked the first time since 1993 that Liverpool had suffered back-to-back league losses at the start of the calendar year, and a season without European football beckons, lest the Reds enjoy a remarkable turnaround in the coming months, as they are two points off Brighton in seventh and a further 10 adrift of the Champions League spots.
A first clean sheet in seven games at Molineux was a sight for sore eyes, as is Liverpool’s imperious home record in the Premier League, as they have lost just one of their last 32 top-flight contests at Anfield and have scored 23 goals on home turf so far – only Manchester City have more in the league this term.
Not since a 1-0 loss to Fulham in March 2021 have Klopp’s men failed to score in a home Premier League match, and the German will take charge of his 1,000th game as a manager this weekend, no doubt eyeing a priceless three points to celebrate in the right way.
Speaking of esteemed teams finally winning their first fixture of the calendar year, Graham Potter’s Chelsea were indebted to both Thiago Silva and Kepa Arrizabalaga during the visit of Crystal Palace, but the West London powerhouses just about got over the line in a 1-0 triumph.
Kai Havertz’s header with 64 minutes gone separated the two capital counterparts at Stamford Bridge, where new signing Mykhaylo Mudryk was unveiled after Chelsea pipped Arsenal to the signature of the highly-rated Ukrainian attacker – their fifth acquisition of a hectic winter window.
Having avoided a fourth game without victory in the Premier League, Chelsea are just about clinging onto their top-half spot in 10th place – behind Liverpool on goal difference and with an identical gap to make up to the top seven and Champions League places.
Potter continues to receive the backing of the Chelsea board, despite only winning two of his last 10 Premier League games at the helm, and the Blues have embarked on an abysmal five-game winless run away from home in the top flight since overcoming Aston Villa in October.
Both Premier League meetings between Liverpool and Chelsea ended level last term before the Reds overcame the Blues in the FA Cup and EFL Cup final on penalties, but Klopp’s side cannot rely on their 12-yard prowess to inflict more misery on the Blues here.
Aiming to take points off a top-four side for the second time in the space of four days, Crystal Palace host Newcastle at Selhurst Park in today’s Premier League contest.
Patrick Vieira’s side left it late to rescue a point in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United in midweek, while the Magpies also waited until the dying embers to scrape past Fulham 1-0 at the weekend.
How Michael Olise kept his celebrations to a minimum on Wednesday night is anybody’s guess, as the Eagles starlet produced a magnificent free kick in second-half stoppage time to ensure that Palace would deny Man United the chance to go second in the Premier League table.
The Red Devils made the breakthrough just before half time, with Bruno Fernandes curling home from Christian Eriksen’s pass, but Olise fired an unstoppable free kick in off the crossbar with minutes remaining to rescue a well-earned point for Palace.
One point could have even become three for the Eagles if David de Gea did not tip Odsonne Edouard’s effort onto the bar, but Vieira took pleasure in once again haunting Man United, although that point sees Palace still languishing in 12th place and five points off the top half.
Wednesday’s stalemate with the Red Devils ended a three-game losing run in all tournaments for Crystal Palace, whose February fixtures are daunting to say the least, with Man United to come again alongside showdowns against Brentford, Brighton & Hove Albion and Liverpool.
The Eagles could very well find themselves slipping down the table as spring approaches, as Vieira’s side are now winless at home in three Premier League contests, and the superstitious fans among us will be interested to hear that Palace have suffered eight consecutive defeats in Premier League games at Selhurst Park kicking off at 5.30pm today.
What could have been a dream return to St James’ Park for Aleksandar Mitrovic quickly turned into a nightmare, as the ex-Newcastle striker thought he had given Fulham the lead from the penalty spot last Sunday, only for replays to show that the Serbian had touched the ball twice as he slipped.
Having been handed a bizarre reprieve, Newcastle called upon the cavalry and waited until the 89th minute to get the job done, as substitute Alexander Isak headed home to settle a tight contest in which the patience of Eddie Howe’s men was tested to the limit.
While any talk of a title challenge may be premature, Newcastle are very much in the Champions League mix at the halfway point of the season, clinging onto fourth place in the table and lying just one point behind Man United and Manchester City, as well as being five clear of Tottenham Hotspur before the Lilywhites face the champions on Thursday.
Entering today’s clash on a 14-game unbeaten run in the top flight, Newcastle’s staunch rearguard have kept clean sheets in their last five Premier League matches and have still conceded just 11 goals all season long – unsurprisingly the best defensive record in the league.
Furthermore, four of the visitors’ last six Premier League games on the road have ended in victory, and they have played out a pair of goalless draws with Palace already this season – the most recent of which ended in a penalty-shootout win in the EFL Cup third round.