Liverpool host Chelsea at Anfield on Thursday in a game which could have implications for both teams’ top-four aspirations.
Here the PA news agency looks at some of the issues.
Liverpool have fielded 17 different starting centre-back pairings this season but the return to fitness of Fabinho, a midfielder who has stood in there for most of the season, could see yet another one added to the list. The inexperienced duo of on-loan Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips kept a clean sheet in Sunday’s win at Sheffield United but one may make way for Fabinho for the entirely different prospect of Chelsea. Kabak would seem to be the preferred option and despite a shaky start will benefit from having a senior player alongside him.
Time for some home comforts?
Liverpool have lost the last four league matches at home, after previously going almost four years unbeaten. They have taken a paltry two points out of a possible 18 at Anfield and incredibly scored just two goals, one of which was a penalty. Diogo Jota’s return to the squad after almost three months out will offer something different up front but the established front three have to improve – and fast.
Double dose of German engineering
New Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is the man both Mainz and Borussia Dortmund chose to replace Jurgen Klopp, which pays him a great tribute and is also an indication of a similar style of football. However, while Klopp’s red machine has been spluttering since Christmas, Tuchel’s tweaks have Chelsea running hot. Six wins – including away at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League – and three draws in an unbeaten start show he has got the reaction he wanted.
No Thiago, no problem
The veteran Thiago Silva was brought in to bring some much-needed experience to Chelsea’s defence and that appeared to be a clever move. But the Brazilian has been injured since February 4 and in the six matches since Chelsea have conceded just twice, with one of those being an Antonio Rudiger own goal, as Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta, Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen have all stepped up.
What next for Tammy Abraham?
The England international was dropped from the squad for the weekend draw with Manchester United and Tuchel effectively told the striker to get on with it as that is what happens at a club like Chelsea. Abraham will be 24 later this year and it feels like under his new manager it will be a case of sink or swim. His contract expires in 2023 but he will have to make a big impression on Tuchel if he is to get that extended. An ankle niggle will not help and he could be a doubt for Anfield.