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Liverpool v Chelsea Preview: Blues must improve to take three points

Chelsea take on Liverpool at Anfield this Saturday with the memory of last season's pivotal 2...


Chelsea take on Liverpool at Anfield this Saturday with the memory of last season's pivotal 2-0 league victory still fresh in the mind.

In contrast to our last meeting with the Reds back in April, both sides head into this fixture having played Champions League football away from home in midweek.

Liverpool should be slightly fresher than the Blues considering their clash with Real Madrid concluded 24 hours prior to our 1-1 draw at Maribor.

Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers was widely lambasted for fielding what looked a Capital One Cup side in the 1-0 loss to the reigning European champions. Although critics offered the former Swansea boss little sympathy for conserving his key players against such formidable opponents, it doesn't take a tactical genius to understand his logic.

Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson are likely to return this weekend in peak condition after Lucas and Emre Can stood in at the Bernabeu.

With Mamadou Sakho sidelined until late November, Dejan Lovren may replace Kolo Toure and partner Martin Skrtel in the heart of defence, while doubt remains whether Glen Johnson has permanently lost his place at right-back to Javier Manquillo. Alberto Moreno is a shoo-in at left-back with Jose Enrique and Jon Flanagan ruled out through injury.

Following reports Daniel Sturridge will remain sidelined with a calf injury until 23 November, Rodgers again faces a touch decision over who to start up top. Mario Balotelli is yet to bag his first goal for the Reds in over 600 minutes of Premier League football, while former Chelsea man Fabio Borini failed to produce anything of note against Madrid on Wednesday evening.

Probable Starting Lineup: Mignolet, Skrtel, Lovren, Manquillo, Moreno, Gerrard, Henderson, Allen, Sterling, Lallana, Balotelli.

Chelsea

Similar to his opposite number, Jose Mourinho elected to rest a host of key players against Maribor. Although the disappointing result suggests his decision backfired, Mourinho now has virtually every member of his first eleven fresh and raring to make up for the midweek slip-up.

Thibaut Courtois should return between the sticks after Petr Cech got his second dose of Champions League football for the campaign midweek.

Kurt Zouma impressed in the middle of defence in Slovenia, but Gary Cahill is likely to get the nod to start alongside John Terry at centre-back.

Mourinho has preferred Cesar Azpilicueta to Felipe Luis at left-back in eight of our 10 Premier League fixtures this campaign. Given the Brazilian was substituted after 56 minutes on Thursday, there's no reason why Dave shouldn't resume his place for the trip to Anfield.

Although changes to the back four and goalkeeper are unlikely, a big question stands over who will get the job at right-midfield between Andre Schurrle and Willian. I sense the German could be relegated to the bench due to some of the awful decisions he made on Thursday night.

Having started and played the full 90 minute of three matches in 10 days, Didier Drogba well and truly deserves a rest. A groin injury keeps Loic Remy in doubt, so Diego Costa will probably pick up from where he left off in the Premier League against QPR.

Probable Starting Lineup: Courtois, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Costa.

Prediction

Although the Reds have struggled to string together any sort of consistency this term, we will have to be much sharper than we were against QPR and Maribor to take all three points. I'd like to be more optimistic, but I see this one ending 1-1.

What are your score predictions?

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