Weak team and Mourinho record means Anfield angst for Chelsea
There are precious few football grounds in the world where Jose Mourinho has a poorer record than Anfield. ‘The Special One’ has won on the Red half of Merseyside just twice in seven Premier League and Champions League attempts.
All of those efforts came in his first spell as Chelsea boss, and Coral are pretty bold when pricing Mourinho to enhance that record to three victories in eight.
A 4/1 price says the Blues will check the Premier League leaders’ momentum by beating them, while Liverpool are odds-on to make it a dozen successive wins at 8/11. A draw is 14/5.
If punters enjoy subplots, then there are plenty to go at here. Master Mourinho versus apprentice Brendan Rodgers and threats from the former to field a weakened team, because of his pathological desire to bring the Champions League trophy back to Stamford Bridge, are just for starters.
Put simply, this encounter will have a massive say in who wins the Premier League title. As they presently enjoy a five-point lead at the top, the Reds are naturally odds-on 1/6 favourites. Chelsea, meanwhile, bring up the rear at 25/1, with Manchester City at 5/1.
Maybe Mourinho’s mind games earlier this year when the Blues went to the Etihad were prophetic. In this three-way dance, Chelsea do look like ‘a little horse’ now, unless there is a shock final burst which starts here.
Brazilian stallion Ramires cannot help the Blues here, however. The versatile midfielder must serve a four-match ban, after the FA took retrospective action over an off-the-ball incident with Sunderland counterpart Sebastian Larsson in the last league outing.
Petr Cech and skipper John Terry are missing from the back five for Chelsea’s run-in too, so Mourinho told the truth when he alluded to fielding a weakened team – more, and quite literally, by accident than a ‘Special One’ design.
Liverpool will not be at full strength either. Jordan Henderson is suspended, while perennial substitute Victor Moses cannot play against his parent team. Daniel Sturridge also faces a fitness test to see whether he can turn out against his former club.
Should the England and Reds striker pass that, then both attacks should be led by men who were once in each other’s shoes. Sturridge is 5/4 in the anytime scorer market after a seasonal league tally of 20.
Ex-Kop idol Fernando Torres, meanwhile, encounters an old club for the second match (in all competitions) running. It was dogged and dutiful work in a drab goalless draw against Atletico Madrid, but one-time stomping ground Anfield was the scene for many of his greatest triumphs. Torres is 11/4 for a goal.
It is ironic that the Blues’ last win at this ground came in May 2010 on the penultimate matchday of the season. They went on to win the title then under Carlo Ancelotti, but a repeat performance takes a lot of believing now.
Liverpool’s preferred margin of victory historically has been 2-0, and odds of 17/2 are available on that precise result. Chelsea do have the highest number of clean sheets in the Premier League this term but, with both Terry and Cech missing and coupled with a 50-goal ‘SAS’ strike partnership facing a weakened back five, that record will be belied.
Attempts to frustrate that prolific duo have been tried by almost every other side in England without success. Blues attacking pair Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o, who scored the goals in the reverse fixture back in December, may still be missing for Mourinho.
Raheem Sterling, meanwhile, is leading rampant Reds charges, and this youngster is sensational value at 7/1 to score the opener – something he has done on each of his last two outings.
Chelsea must be alert to set piece danger Martin Skrtel, especially in the absence of club captain Terry. The Slovakian centre back has three in his last five, so is a definite outside shout for a goal anytime at 9/1.
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