Liverpool’s last Anfield win over Chelsea came at the tail end of the 2011/12 season, a 4-1 victory in an inconsequential league game that mattered little in the midst of Chelsea’s defeat of the Reds in the FA Cup final three days previously. Indeed, none of the last seven league meetings between these two clubs have been won by the home side, a sequence which does not bode well for Jurgen Klopp and his squad ahead of Saturday evening’s showdown. Also, the teams had contrasting fortunes in Europe in midweek, with Liverpool blowing a 3-0 lead against Sevilla and Chelsea easing past Qarabag to book their place in the Champions League knockout stages. The Blues have recovered well from a slow start to their title defence and while they remain a distance behind leaders Manchester City, the busy finish to 2017 gives them a chance to haul themselves back into contention. Alvaro Morata is repaying his summer transfer fee with each passing week, while Eden Hazard has been his typically explosive self of late. Liverpool have their own trump card, though, in Mohamed Salah, who would love nothing more than to get one over on the club where he struggled in 2014. Like his current side, the Egyptian has a point to prove to the west Londoners.
Manchester United also had a setback in the Champions League during the week, but they still look primed to top their group and they take a 100% home record into their clash with Brighton at Old Trafford on Saturday. The return of Paul Pogba has seen the Red Devils become more cohesive and expansive in their play, while the ability to call on Zlatan Ibrahimovic is an enviable one to have in case Romelu Lukaku is misfiring. They came from behind to comfortably beat Newcastle last week and they now face an ex-Magpies manager in Chris Hughton, whose Brighton side have acquitted themselves very well in the opening third of their debut Premier League season. They have yet to take a major scalp since being promoted, but nor have they suffered the type of heavy defeat to which newcomers to this division are often subjected. In Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk, they have one of the best centre-back pairings in the league and United might have to be patient in attempting to break down the Seagulls.
Manchester City go in search of an 11th Premier League win in a row, matching a run set by Liverpool in the latter half of the 2013/14 season, when they make the trip to Huddersfield on Sunday. Pep Guardiola’s men have been in imperious form of late, although they were nearly held to a scoreless draw at home by Feyenoord in the Champions League in midweek, even with a much-changed side. Also, they rode their luck at times in winning at Leicester a week ago, so Guardiola knows that his team is not infallible. Whether Huddersfield have the tools to inflict the shock of the season thus far is another matter; despite beating the other Manchester club at the John Smith’s Stadium a month ago, the Terriers haven’t looked too potent as an attacking force and they were ripped to shreds by Bournemouth last week. Still, it was only two seasons ago that they held City to a 0-0 draw on their own patch in the FA Cup, so David Wagner has previous in frustrating the runaway league leaders.
A 0-4 thrashing at home by Chelsea last week was the cue for West Brom’s board to dispense with Tony Pulis, whose unadventurous tactics did not endear himself to the Baggies faithful. As the search for his successor gets underway in earnest, Gary Megson takes temporary charge of the struggling Midlanders as they travel to Wembley on Saturday to face Tottenham, who quickly put their derby woe behind them to seal top spot in their Champions League group with a fine win in Dortmund. This looks like a cosy fixture for Spurs, but West Brom fans will recall how their opponents failed to beat Burnley and Swansea at Wembley earlier in the season, so they will take some heart from that. If Mauricio Pochettino’s main men are on song, though, they could very well pile further misery on the Baggies.
David Moyes was made aware of the scale of the task he faces at West Ham when they crashed 2-0 at Watford last weekend, during which angry Hammers fans made their opinions about the players and owners very clear. There could be a rather eerie atmosphere at London Stadium on Friday night when they take on Leicester, a match that the home side dare not lose if the stench of toxicity is not to become even more overwhelming. It’s a situation that could play into the hands of the Foxes, who despite losing to Manchester City last week have looked more assured under Claude Puel. The raw pace and penetration of Liverpool’s attack made hay at this ground earlier in the month and you wouldn’t bet against Jamie Vardy doing likewise against a creaking Hammers defence. A bad start for the home side and things could turn very nasty in this part of east London.
While Arsenal fans will no doubt have been ecstatic at last weekend’s derby win over Tottenham, they were also entitled to feel a little vexed at why their team cannot produce performances of such quality and commitment more regularly. The barometer was set in that game a week ago; now can they match it in Sunday’s trip to Burnley? In the recent past this has been one of those potentially tricky visits to a survival-chasing team, but with the Clarets level on points with Arsenal ahead of this clash, it takes on a fresh dynamic. Sean Dyche will still set his team up to be compact and well organised, but they now have the ability to trouble the Gunners from open play and even a point would be seen as a better result for Burnley than for the opponents. It’s a pity this one isn’t on TV because it has the makings of a very good match.
Instead, the Sky Sports cameras will be at St Mary’s to see if goal-shy Southampton can repeat last season’s victory over Everton, who themselves have had their fair share of struggles recently. The Saints never threatened to expose a very shaky Liverpool defence at Anfield last week and Mauricio Pellegrino doesn’t seem to know which of his striking options can be trusted to get the team firing again. That lack of penalty pox potency has also been in evidence for the Toffees, who have struggled for goals since selling Lukaku and will not have been thanking Oumar Niasse for getting himself banned for a blatant dive at Crystal Palace. You get the sense that if there is to be a winning goal, or indeed any goal, in this match, it will come from a defensive lapse or a well-struck set piece.
Even though they lost 4-1 to Manchester United, Newcastle showed enough in their first half display at Old Trafford to suggest that they are comfortable operating in the Premier League. That was a largely pressure-free fixture, but the onus will be on them to be more assertive when they host Watford on Saturday. The Geordies aren’t always comfortable in games such as these, as evidenced by a surprise home defeat to Bournemouth recently, so they still have plenty to prove to the Tyneside faithful. Watford ended a three-game losing streak by defeating West Ham last time out, a result that has got their campaign back on track and in which Marco Silva’s side were adventurous and clinical when required. They can afford to be positive in their approach again at St James’ Park and they will be encouraged by their fine away record in the league so far this season. It would be no surprise if they were to notch another three points on the road here.
Having started the month in 19th, two wins on the bounce have lifted Bournemouth into a more comfortable mid-table position and what will please Eddie Howe the most about those victories over Newcastle and Huddersfield is that they remained solid during spells of pressure before making the most of their chances at the other end. Their upturn in form is in contrast with the increasingly deeper rut in which Saturday’s opponents Swansea find themselves. With Tammy Abraham’s goals drying up of late, the Welsh outfit have nobody who looks like stepping up to the goalscoring mantle, while their defence always looks likely to leak a few. Plus, the home support at the Liberty Stadium have been getting on the team’s back in a manner not before seen since they came up to the Premier League in 2011. Bournemouth’s season has changed with a couple of wins; Paul Clement will fervently hope that a good result on Saturday could have a similar effect for his struggling side.
The only team keeping Swansea off the foot of the table are Crystal Palace, whose improved performances under Roy Hodgson aren’t yielding the points required to get them off bottom, never mind out of the bottom three. On Saturday they welcome Stoke to Selhurst Park in the knowledge that a positive performance is secondary to the need for what would be only a second league win of the season. The Potters haven’t been anything special in this campaign, though, and twice relinquished winning positions to draw at Brighton on Monday. It could be a tense affair between a team trying not to get sucked into a relegation battle and another who would dearly love to fight their way out of one.
Liverpool and Chelsea have had many memorable clashes in recent years and Saturday’s clash promises to be an intriguing watch. The Reds’ attacking brilliance always gives them a strong chance of victory, but if they defend like they did in that unacceptable second half in Seville, the likes of Morata and Hazard could pulverise Liverpool into submission just like Manchester City and Tottenham have done during the autumn.