England Premier League: Liverpool v Chelsea
First place Chelsea are ready to finish off Liverpool's title challenge with a win at Anfield, says Blues boss Antonio Conte. Chelsea travel to Liverpool in perhaps their most important match of the season as Antonio Conte’s first place Chelsea side compete with FC Liverpool away at Anfield tonight in a massive game in the title race. Conte claims that Chelsea are now a very different team to the side defeated by Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Stamford Bridge early in the season on September 16th. However Conte rejected claims that a Chelsea victory against Liverpool tonight would put an end to the Liverpool title challenge. Great last minute Liverpool v Chelsea tickets are still available to buy now online from 1st4FootballTickets.com!
Liverpool has demonstrated surprisingly poor form lately, losing to Swansea at home in the Premier League, losing the League Cup semi-final against Southampton, followed by being knocked out of the FA Cup against Wolves last weekend. A loss tonight would red flag their worst run for nearly 100 years, putting them 13 points behind Chelsea going into upcoming back to back clashes with Premier League titan clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. Legal Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur tickets and Liverpool v Arsenal tickets are available to buy now from 1st4FootballTickets.com
Yesterday, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was asked about the importance of tonight’s match. "Tomorrow against Liverpool will be a very tough game. They came after three defeats and we must pay attention because they are a really good team. They are one of six teams that can fight for the title and a place in the Champions League,” said Conte. “It's very important but after this week we have to play 14 games. It doesn't finish the league after these two games. I think tomorrow is a tough test against a tough team. Good coach, good players and they have good experience to fight for the title. I think after this game there are a lot of points (to play for). It would be a hard hit mentally for them (to lose) but there are 15 games after this and there are 45 points before the season finishes. The result is important but it doesn't decide the season for Liverpool or Chelsea tomorrow." Chelsea began the 2016-17 season with a defeat at home to Liverpool followed by an embarrassing loss at Arsenal.
“As Jordan Henderson hit that 30-yard screamer into the top corner beating Thibaut Courtois all ends up, I honestly felt like leaving the ground and going home,” said Conte. Fans, players, and manager looked down and dejected. Antonio Conte spoke after defeat to Liverpool that night and stated that Liverpool were a great team whereas Chelsea were not. Now, four months later, Chelsea sit in first place at the top of the EPL having lost only one game since those two defeats and are a totally different side now as Chelsea have found the perfect balance with Conte's 3-4-3 formation. Antonio Conte has been quick to point out his side’s improvement in his pre-match press conference.
"Honestly, I think we are a different team, not Liverpool. I think that we grew a lot,” said Conte. “After the game against Liverpool I said, 'today we faced a great team, a really great team, but today we are not a team. Only through work we can improve to become a team'. I think it happened. We grew a lot and for this reason now we are top of the table. It's incredible this, because it's not easy to have two defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal and to find the strength to start and to arrive top of the table and to have 13 wins in a row. I'm pleased for my players - they deserve this." Of course credit also goes to Antonio Conte for the way he has turned his team around at Chelsea after those two defeats as he adopted a tactical switch to three at the back.
Conte brings a very different Chelsea to the side beaten by Liverpool earlier in the season to diminish Jurgen Klopp's title chances. Meanwhile, Chelsea Captain John Terry said, “I hope I don’t play for Chelsea again this season.” Terry is hoping that Chelsea will keep winning this season. Speaking to former Liverpool Captain Steven Gerrard ahead of Chelsea’s massive Premier League clash with Liverpool on Tuesday, the 36-year-old said he is willing to not play if it results in the Blues winning the title. After starting in the first four games of the season, an injury put Terry out of the starting lineup at the same time Antonio Conte’s side set off on an incredible winning run. As a result, Chelsea’s current longest-serving footballer would find it difficult to get back onto the starting lineup.
“First and foremost the team is flying - playing unbelievable,” Terry said prior to the clash at Anfield. “Sometimes there’s nothing you can do as a player. I started the first four games of the season and get injured and we lose at home to Liverpool and Arsenal away and the manager is asking ‘how long till you are back? And then we go 13 games unbeaten and you’re back fit but you can’t get in. And as a player it’s difficult to accept but you have to accept it. When you’ve got a manager like Conte who’s been honest with me from day one ‘listen you’re not getting back in - the boys are playing great the team’s flying’, you haven’t got a leg to stand on,’ he added.”
When asked by Gerrard why he hopes to remain on the sidelines, Terry said that his omission would mean the west London outfit were on course to win the Premier League title. “I genuinely mean when I say it, but for me I am honestly hoping I don’t play this season which means they keep winning,” Terry added. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard said Chelsea rivalry is ''hatred for 90 minutes'' ahead of the big match. In the past Gerrard had some massive hassels with Chelsea both domestically and in Europe, and says the rivalry between the two sides is underestimated as the Blues travel to Anfield hoping to strengthen their position at the summit of the Premier League.
"I think the rivalry between Liverpool and Chelsea was bigger than what people thought," said Gerrard. "For me, being a Liverpool player and a Liverpool fan, to get any kind of success at some stage we had to knock Chelsea out. They were the most powerful team, but became the most powerful team and club financial wise but also the player influx. For us to get any kind of success we knew we had to get the better of them. It’s almost like hatred for 90 minutes. The feeling you get in your body is weird but as soon as the final whistle you need to go back straight away to being respectful. Obviously it’s a lot more difficult when on the losing end."
Chelsea skipper John Terry referred to battles between himself and Jamie Carragher and the midfield duel between Gerrard and Frank Lampard as a major part of the rivalry. "It was every year, for four of five years – every Champions League draw we knew we were going to get you,” said Terry to Gerrard. "I always remember the rivalry over the years was you and Lamps [Frank Lampard] and me and Carra [Jamie Carragher]. Kind of battling it out at international level and everything else, and I just always remember you and Carra being so into it."
Chelsea are trying to hasten a deal for Schalke defender Sead Kolasinac after Branislav Ivanovic agreed to join Zenit St Petersburg. Blues boss Antonio Conte is trying to raid his former club Juventus in the battle to sign the Schalke left back. Chelsea have granted Ivanovic a free transfer and the long-serving defender has now agreed a two-and-a-half-year contract at Zenit. Chelsea are sealing a loan deal for 28-year-old Inter Milan winger Jonathan Biabiany for the rest of the season. Meanwhile Sadio Mane may be on the bench for Liverpool’s game with Chelsea today. Mane is on his way back to Anfield on a private jet to ensure Mane returns to Merseyside as quickly as possible after Senegal were knocked out of the African Cup of Nations. Mane missed the crucial penalty for his country in the shoot-out with Cameroon and left the pitch in tears after Mane and Senegal were dumped out of the African Cup of Nations by Cameroon. Without Mane, Liverpool earned only one win in eight games and suffered three home defeats in a row. Reds boss Jurgen Klopp may start Mane, but Mane is more likely to make the bench for Tuesday’s game.