Firstly, Chelsea go into this game off the back of a fantastic run of form which has seen them establish an eight point lead at the top, what have fans made of the team’s performances?
Since the change to the 3-4-3 Chelsea have been almost unstoppable, the fans are absolutely loving what’s going on at the moment. To be eight points clear at this stage is pretty impressive, to be honest. A lot of fans are going into this week, with Liverpool tonight and Arsenal at home on Saturday, seeing it as a big, big week for Chelsea. If they can get four points out of these next two games that will give them a real boost for the end of the season.
They’re loving what Antonio Conte has done and the passion he has shown on the sidelines, he’s very similar to Jürgen Klopp in the way he expresses himself, so there is real positivity about what he’s done at the club so far.
Chelsea did endure their worst patch of the season back in September, including losing 2-1 at home to Liverpool, what has changed since then?
Obviously, the formation change appears to have been the big difference, Conte did say in his press conference yesterday that the team that lost to Liverpool was a completely different team compared to what they are now, in the sense of confidence and the way they’re playing together as a unit. Whether that has come from the formation change or whether it’s just what Conte has been able to instil at the club.
That confidence when you go on a streak of winning 13 games in a row, and even with that defeat against Spurs the fans just acknowledged that Spurs were the better team on the night and deserved it.
Every player has stepped up and when you look at the starting 11 there doesn’t seem to be one real weak link, so that’s where it has all stemmed from.
One of the problems the team have had this season is picking up wins over their top four rivals, with just one win in four games, what do you think that’s down to?
It’s hard to say really. If they lose the next couple of games there will be that label of being flat track bullies, in terms of being able to beat the lesser teams but not beating those around them. Tonight will be a good test of that, going to Liverpool who must be a little bit low on confidence off the back of three home defeats.
If they lose tonight there might be questions marks over that record, but this is definitely a different side to the one that lost to the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal back in September.
One of the Blues’ key players again this season has been Diego Costa, but with that has come more controversy surrounding the player, what did the fans make of his latest fall-out?
Last season with the Jose Mourinho situation, he was one of the players that didn’t seem to be putting a shift in for the club and there was some frustration in that, way more than there has been in this situation. A lot of it has been Costa maintaining that he wanted to play for the club and when he did return, starting and scoring, there seemed to be no animosity from the majority of fans. There might be a few fans in the background that are a little bit disgruntled with the reports about arguments with Conte, though.
But, overall, he returned to Stamford Bridge to a good reception, with chants of ‘Diego, Diego’ around the ground and he reciprocated that with a wave to the crowd. There doesn’t seem to be much a fall-out, as far as the fans are concerned.
This game is being billed as make or break for Liverpool’s hopes of a shot at the title this season, do you see Chelsea losing it at this stage?
As I said before, if they can get four points out of this week, that could become too big a margin for the other clubs to make up.
Tonight, obviously, has to be seen as make or break for Liverpool, even 10 points behind they were going to struggle to catch up but 13 points would definitely take them out of the race.
The way that Liverpool are going to have to play, knowing they have to win the game, might make it a bit more open, you might see the likes of Pedro, Eden Hazard and Costa getting more space within which to work their magic.
If there is one thing Liverpool fans can take a boost from it’s their record against the top sides, undefeated with three draws and three wins, does that concern you in any way?
Personally, I don’t tend to pay much attention to those sort of facts, obviously Liverpool have always been known to be strong at Anfield but those last three defeats must create a degree of nervousness among Liverpool fans — even though it will be a completely different team from the one that lost to Wolves. If Liverpool were coming into this in a better run of form I’d say yes, that would play a bigger part.
But, Anfield under the lights on a Tuesday night is always a great occasion and these two clubs have played some cracking evening games over the years, so it could be great again tonight.
How do you expect both teams to finish the season?
I believe that Chelsea will go on and win the title, if you look at their run they’ve not really got anything else to worry about, obviously they’ve got the FA Cup but they’ve got Wolves in the next round — and hopefully they can do what Liverpool couldn’t and beat them! But their main focus will be the league and they should really go on and win it.
For Liverpool, it’s a difficult one. At one stage they were top of the table. I saw them play against Watford, and on that day Watford were dreadful but Liverpool were absolutely superb and I thought this team is really going places and there is a part of me that would like to see Liverpool at least in the top four because they’re a Champions League club, they’ve had some great nights in Europe. I still think they can get top four because you never know what might happen with Manchester City and Manchester United, but I think top four should be the aim.
Finally, how do you expect tonight’s game to pan out?
I gave a prediction of 3-1 to Chelsea earlier which might have been a bit optimistic. I still think Chelsea will go on and win tonight.
It will be interesting to see if Sadio Mane plays tonight, that could change the dynamic of the game if he’s back. I expect he probably won’t start, I’m sure if Klopp can use him he will come off the bench at some point.
Conte expects it to be an open game and I think it could be the same.