Chelsea must win against Liverpool on Sunday if they are to stand any chance of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season.
The Blues are currently six points behind The Reds in the English Premier League table, but if Antonio Conte’s side win their next two matches at Stamford Bridge, the two former UEFA Champions League winners will be level on points on the final day of the season.
Sunday’s hosts will be aiming to earn a fifth consecutive victory in all competitions for the first time in 12 months.
Ahead of this season-deciding clash for The Blues, we predict how Antonio Conte may set out his side to face Liverpool.
Predicted line-up (3-4-3): Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, Antonio Rudiger; Victor Moses, N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas, Marcos Alonso; Willian, Olivier Giroud, Eden Hazard
Predicted substitutes: Willy Caballero, Andreas Christensen, Emerson Palmieri, Ross Barkley, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Pedro, Alvaro Morata
After keeping his first clean sheet for Chelsea since February, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will be in search of back-to-back shutouts for the first time since January against the Scousers.
The recent form of defensive trio Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger are currently keeping starlet Andreas Christensen out of the starting line-up. It will be surprising to see Conte drop any of these defenders to bring the Dane back into the team.
Victor Moses spent the duration of the 2013/2014 campaign on loan with Liverpool but started in only nine of his 22 appearances under Brendan Rodgers. He will be hoping to prove his worth against his former side and is likely to keep his place at right wing-back.
Against Swansea City last weekend, Chelsea opted for a 3-5-2 formation, which saw N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko start together in the middle of midfield. However, as Chelsea will be hunting for goals, they could return to a more familiar set-up of 3-4-3, which may see Bakayoko drop to the substitutes’ bench.
Marcos Alonso may return to the side after missing The Blues’ last three matches through suspension. However, Emerson Palmieri’s performances in his absence were very impressive, giving manager Conte a real selection dilemma.
If Chelsea do return to a three-man attack, Willian could be recalled to the starting side, having only featured as a substitute against Swansea City. Olivier Giroud and Eden Hazard proved against Carlos Carvalhal’s team that they deserve to be selected and recalling the Brazilian would only be a move to partner Giroud and Hazard.
The Blues’ recent run against Liverpool hasn’t been easy for them, but Conte will know how much this game means to the future of both him and his side; their recent form could be the exact boost they need going into this clash.
Score Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool
By Jonty Colman