Match Preview: Liverpool vs Chelsea (FA Cup Fifth Round)
Liverpool have lost as many games in the two weeks following the winter break than they have in the six months prior to it. The Reds will be keen to return to winning ways against an opponent they have already defeated twice this season.
This is the furthest that Jurgen Klopp has gone in the FA Cup and is now just four wins away from lifting the trophy. They face their strongest opponents yet in the competition in Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.
Liverpool will be emboldened by the fact that Chelsea will be without Christian Pulisic and N’Golo Kante. The duo was a constant thorn in the Reds’ side in both the UEFA Super Cup and the Premier League fixture at Stamford Bridge.
It remains to be seen what kind of team Klopp decides to go with. He will be ken to reward the youngsters for their run in the competition, but could also be unwilling to risk another loss denting his squad’s morale.
Chelsea are likely to go in with a stronger squad given this is the club’s best shot at silverware this season. Both the fixtures between the clubs this season have been closely fought ties and this is likely to follow the same trend.
Captain Jordan Henderson remains the biggest injury casualty with Naby Keita, and Joe Gomez also unlikely to be risked. Nathaniel Clyne, and Xherdan Shaqiri are ruled out while James Milner has been declared fit.
It remains to be seen how serious Klopp takes the game given his penchant of using youngsters in the competition. Against a strong opponent and smarting after a miserable 3-0 loss at Watford, the German is unlikely to further risk damaging his side’s morale. A number of reserve players are likely to get their chance with a larger concentration of first teams included, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Klopp selected his strongest side as Liverpool look to get back to winning ways.
Wonderkid Harvey Elliott will also not be available for the match after journeying with Barry Lewtas’s side to play in the UEFA Youth League clash against Benfica. Neco Williams is nursing a slight knock and could make way for Ki-Jana Hoever at right-back.
Frank Lampard will be missing a number of his stars owing to injury. N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic are out injured while Marco van Ginkel continues to recover from his ACL injury. Top scorer Tammy Abraham is a doubt after limping off against Bayern Munich while Callum Hudson-Odoi is also a major doubt.
Jorginho’s yellow at Bournemouth rules him out of the next two Premier League matches and he is expected to start here. Oliver Giroud is likely to be rested in favor of Michy Batshuayi while Willian and Ross Barkley could also start having made the bench against Bournemouth. It remains to be seen in Kepa Arizzbalaga will be entrusted in goal.
The FA Cup represents Chelsea’s best chance at silverware this season and Lampard is likely to go with a strong team.
Adrian, Ko-Jana Hoever, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, James Milner, Pedro Chirivella, Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi, Adam Lallana
Kepa Arizzabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta, Fikayo Tomori, Kurt Zouma, Emerson Palmieri, Jorginho, Ross Barkley, Marcos Alonso, Willian, Batshuayi, Pedro
Players to watch
The English midfielder will be keen to make up for a disappointing performance at Vicarage Road where he failed to make any impact whatsoever. Liverpool’s midfield has been too static of late and has failed to contribute to the attack. The onus to carry the ball forward will fall to the 26-years-old who is enjoying his best season for the Reds.
He is likely to be the senior midfielder alongside Curtis Jones and will need to lead from the front against a midfield of Jorginho and Kovacic. If Chirivella starts over Fabinho, Ox will need to marshall his young teammates well and time his runs well so as to not leave space behind him.
The Italian midfielder has had a rather mixed season with a number of ups and downs. The 28-year-old will be key to Chelsea winning or losing the midfield battle. The combative Italian makes up for his lack of pace with his reading of the game and will look to use it against what is likely to be a Liverpool midfield with lesser experience.
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No other player has made more interceptions than Jorginho and he will look to close down avenues and space for the Liverpool players to run into.