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While neither club would admit so in public at this stage, they must be thinking that this match represents a staging post in the battle for the silver medal rather than the top prize.
With Manchester City odds-on favourite to continue their quest to make the title race in England as dull as it usually is in France or Germany, Chelsea and Liverpool look to be battling it out to be the best of the rest.
And their records have been very similar this season. After 19 matches had been played, both teams had won 12, drawn five and lost two, though Chelsea then threw away two points in stoppage time against Brighton on Thursday evening.
Chelsea v Liverpool, Sunday January 2: 4.30pm
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With the big six mini-league also unsurprisingly at the halfway point in the season, it’s interesting to see that the Reds have drawn three of their five games while Chelsea are next in line on two.
As they drew 1-1 with each other earlier this season, it shouldn’t be a surprise that their records are similar here, and league games between the two at Stamford Bridge have generally been close in recent times.
Liverpool won 2-0 last season, but that was in part thanks to the combination of Andreas Christensen’s red card and Kepa Arrizabalaga deciding it was a good idea to pass to Sadio Mane six yards from goal. It was not.
The previous four league clashes in west London were settled by one goal at most, with Chelsea last winning by two way back in 2009. As both teams will be painfully aware of the cost of defeat this game should be a cagey affair. It looks very possible that it will end as a draw in which City will be the victors.
Liverpool drew a blank at Leicester in midweek and last failed to score in successive away league games this time last year. That they’ve only ended with nil eight times on the road in the last three-and-a-half seasons suggests they should score here.
As should Chelsea’s surprisingly unimpressive defensive record. It’s not that they concede loads of goals but for some reason they are really struggling to keep clean sheets.
The Blues’ only shutout at the Bridge in their last eight league matches came against bottom of the table Norwich. Similarly, their only clean sheet in the last eight home or away occurred against Wolves, the second lowest-scoring team in the Premier League. Behind Norwich.
You get the idea. Four of the previous five league matches on Chelsea’s patch have ended 1-1 and this easily could too, but both teams should score at the very least.
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After Paul Tierney made a pig’s ear of Liverpool’s 2-2 draw at Tottenham, Kopites were not given a happy Christmas with the news he will be the VAR for this match. And as the main ref will be Manchester-born Anthony Taylor, their mood no doubt soured further.
Particularly as the three VAR overturns this pairing have instigated in the league saw two favour Chelsea and one go against Liverpool in a match with Manchester United.
But we’re interested in cards here. Despite seeing red in two of their last three games with the Reds, Chelsea have only picked up five yellows in their last six games against Liverpool. Jürgen Klopp’s have only been booked seven times in those matches themselves too.
With Liverpool joint-top of the league for games played without seeing yellow this season, we’ll go under 3.5 on cards.
Matches between two European Super League clubs have an above-average number of corners in them – 12.2 so far this season, compared to 10.4 for the other fixtures.
There have been five games among the big six that have featured at least 15 corners and Chelsea have taken part in all of them. Add in their home matches with Aston Villa, Burnley and Brighton, and the Blues have participated in a third of the Premier League’s 15+ corner matches.
One of them was their 1-1 draw at Anfield, a game in which both goals came in some way from corners – Chelsea’s goal was assisted directly from one, while Liverpool earned their equalising penalty from a similar situation.
With records like these, the sky’s the limit, but we’ll stay within the realms of likelihood and go for over 11.5 corners.
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