Liverpool vs. Chelsea: Previewing Sunday's potential title-decider

Julian Finney

League leaders Liverpool look set to face a weakened Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday ... or is it another one of mischievous Mourinho's mindgames?

With just three games of the Premier League season left, Liverpool sit five points clear of Chelsea at the top of the table, and six in front of Manchester City -- albeit with the Citizens still having a game in hand. But even if City were to win said spare match, it would take a calamitous collapse for Brendan Rodgers' side to throw away their first title since 1990.

That's a fact acknowledged by Chelsea boss José Mourinho, who looks set to start a weakened team away at Anfield on Sunday. With the Blues locked in a tense Champions League semifinal against Atlético Madrid, the Portuguese tactician is reportedly going to rest his key players and risk mathematically dropping out of the Premier League title race.

Whether he actually will, is another matter altogether.

When we last met

Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in the reverse fixture. Martin Škrtel gave Liverpool the lead in just the third minute, though Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto'o battled back with first half goals to ensure the Blues took all three points.

Team news

Liverpool still have full-back José Enrique out with a long-term injury, while midfielder Jordan Henderson is sidelined through suspension. Winger Victor Moses is unavailable against his parent club, though ex-Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge could well be available after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Chelsea will certainly be without goalkeeper Petr Čech and centre-back John Terry, who both aren't likely to play again this season after sustaining injuries in the Blues' goalless Champions League semifinal first leg against Atlético Madrid. Ramires is suspended, and while Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto'o are on the brink of returning from injury, they aren't likely to be risked.

Indeed, it's possible none of Mourinho's starters in the midweek Champions League tie will play at Anfield, in what could be a dramatically weakened team. However, with Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Nemanja Matić and Mohamed Salah unavailable for the Atléti game, they will likely all be involved.

Projected lineups (left to right)

Liverpool (4-3-3): Simon Mignolet; Jon Flanagan, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson; Philippe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen; Raheem Sterling, Luis Suárez, Daniel Sturridge.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Henrique Hilário; Nathan Aké, Andreas Christensen, John Obi Mikel, Tomáš Kalas; Frank Lampard, Nemanja Matić, Marco van Ginkel; André Schürrle, Demba Ba, Mohamed Salah.

Liverchels_medium

Yes, we're aware of how ridiculous that back four looks. We're still laughing. Please let this happen. The world needs this.

Key Matchups

José Mourinho's mindgames vs. José Mourinho's actual team - José Mourinho is well known for being the king of mindgames, and it's possible that we're all walking straight into his trap by taking his suggestion of fielding a weakened team at face value. After all, if they win, they'd only be a couple of points adrift of Liverpool in the table with two to play. However, media reports have emerged suggesting that the Chelsea hierarchy have supported a decision to rest key players, so it does indeed look like we could see an unusual starting 11. This, of course, hands Liverpool a great advantage.

Luis Suárez vs. Chelsea's centre-backs - Some of the rumoured lineups have suggested Chelsea will start a completely rotated and somewhat inexperienced back four, with youth products Nathan Aké, Andrea Christensen and Tomáš Kalas all in with a chance of playing. There's even reportedly the possibility that John Obi Mikel could drop back into the defence. Against one of the smartest and mobile strikers in the world, Luis Suárez, and some fine inside forwards in Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, things could get messy. Positional discipline will be they key, with players wary to stop the tricky Uruguayan disrupting their shape.

Prediction

Predicting quite how this game will go is nigh-on impossible, as really we don't have a clue how Chelsea will line up. However, assuming that they will rest key players, it's hard to see them beating a team that has notched up 11 straight wins in the Premier League. 2-1 Liverpool.

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