Sunday’s big game at Anfield is supposed to be a Premier League title-decider: first versus second, two brilliant managers putting their wits against each other and two sets of players hungry for success.
However, with Chelsea five points behind leaders Liverpool in second and in a delicate situation in the Champions League – their semi-final tie against Atletico Madrid is level at 0-0 after the first leg on Tuesday – manager Jose Mourinho has hinted that he could field a weakened side.
Even a win at Anfield will see the London outfit remain behind Liverpool, and it seems that Mourinho has discounted the possibility of winning the title on his return to England.
However, Tony Cascarino, a former Chelsea striker who now works as a Sky Sports pundit, believes that even with a weakened team, the Blues can get maximum points at Anfield. He underlines Liverpool’s defensive frailties as a major cause for concern for manager Brendan Rodgers.
Cascarino also warns Liverpool against taking Chelsea’s ‘B team’ lightly, claiming that squad players will have a point to prove to Mourinho and will be desperate to show what they can do when given the chance.
‘You always hate to lose your stand-out players that can make a difference and lead by example, and Petr Cech and John Terry are two great examples’, the 51-year-old told Sky Sports News. ‘Chelsea have got a fantastic squad, but Terry is the real leader of the group. At least they have got players who can come in and do a fine job, players that haven't been given a chance before.
‘I always say to beware of a second team, they can be really dangerous and players have a point to prove to the manager. They come in with hunger and desire to show the manager what they can do.
‘It's also a game where Chelsea don't have to play like they did against Atletico Madrid. They can have a go at Liverpool. We know Liverpool's back four is not the best in the league, they certainly give you a chance. So I think Chelsea can go there and make it really difficult for them’.
Liverpool have dropped just five points at home all season, but have conceded 15 goals in 17 matches at Anfield. Their away record is even worse: 29 goals have been shipped in 18 games. On the other hand, Chelsea have conceded just 11 at Stamford Bridge and 15 in 17 away matches.
Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Jon Flanagan will form Liverpool’s back four on Sunday, while Simon Mignolet will be between the posts. In their last match against Norwich City, the Reds conceded twice and just edged the contest 3-2. Relegation-threatened Hull City have slipped in fewer goals than Liverpool - the Reds’ defence has been that leaky.
The likes of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling have perfectly done the job of scoring goals, 96 of them in fact. However, the problem of conceding them remains an issue. On Sunday, Liverpool are bound to score, but they have to make sure that they do not allow Chelsea to do the same. Or else...