Since it was announced that Chelsea intend to field a reserve team at Anfield on Sunday out of protest at the Premier League for not moving the game to Saturday, it’s been interesting trying to work out what that means for our chances this weekend.
Likely it’s a good thing, as the reserve XI of any team is usually a weakened one, but then Chelsea have the finances to field a second team that could probably beat most teams in this league. Not only that, but I find it unlikely that Jose Mourinho will decide to rest every single player that he wants to play against Atletico on Sunday. It would be too risky despite claiming that he doesn’t care about the outcome of this game.
So first of all, attention goes to the defence. With Cech out for the season, Mark Schwarzer will likely step in. While he could be rusty due to a lack of game time this season, Schwarzer has established himself over the years as one of the league’s most reliable goalkeepers and will relish this chance to play.
With John Terry out injured, I expect Gary Cahill will continue in the centre of defence with a new partner. This could either be David Luiz or Branislav Ivanovic, the latter was not named in Chelsea’s midweek squad and to my knowledge is not injured or suspended. Unless Mourinho plans to deploy Ivanovic at full back I can see him becoming Cahill’s partner. Azpilicueta is young enough that he can handle three games in a week so I expect him to continue on the flank. Cole however did start midweek so I don’t expect him to do so again with us. Perhaps the youngster Kalas will start in his place; undeniably a target that Liverpool can exploit.
In midfield, new signing Nemanja Matic will certainly start as he is cup-tied in the Champions League. Many agree that the Serbian has been a crucial signing for Chelsea and his performance will be key. Frank Lampard has been used sparingly this season and already played against Atletico midweek, but Ramires’ suspension means he might be brought in anyway with his experience a huge advantage. He is also much better than Mikel who also played midweek; it could be likely though that youngster Van Ginkel will start instead as he was an unused substitute in the CL.
With Hazard still out injured, Oscar is almost a certainty to start this weekend. The Brazilian, who didn’t play midweek, is as good as Coutinho and ahead of him in the Brazil pecking order, so expect a tough test for Gerrard. Further ahead, ex-Liverpool target Mohamed Salah was not used this week and will likely start, as will Andre Schürrle. With Eto’o injured and Torres having started midweek, Demba Ba will probably lead the line.
It certainly looks promising for Brendan Rodgers’ tricky Reds, but make no mistake, with that opposition this weekend will be tough.