After recent troubles, Chelsea and Liverpool face-off looking for upturns in fortunes

Chelsea v Liverpool, Premier League, October 4, 2009

Chelsea 10/11; Draw 11/5; Liverpool 13/5

For those of us hoping for an encounter much like the Champions League quarter-final tie last season, as opposed to some of the turgid games served up by these two teams in the Premier League in recent years, events over the last week or so suggest we are in for another cagey match.

Chelsea have been pretty woeful in their past two games and Carlo Ancelotti has made no excuses for the poor performances against Wigan and APOEL Nicosia. The Blues deservedly lost at the DW Stadium and in the Champions League failed to hit top gear in Cyprus in a game the home side will feel they could have got something out of.

Much like Luiz Felipe Scolari’s last few weeks in charge at Stamford Bridge, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why Chelsea are beginning to struggle after six successive wins in the Premier League at the start of the campaign. Perhaps opposition teams are beginning to get a grip of Carlo Ancelotti’s tactics or the ageing Chelsea squad are tiring, even at this early stage of the campaign.

The Blues will be without Petr Cech who was sent off at Wigan last week which means Hilario will start in goal against the Reds. (Chelsea are 6/4 to keep a clean sheet.) Didier Drogba will be restored to the attack after serving the second game of his three-match suspension in the Champions League and the Ivorian will be eager to continue his excellent scoring run this season. (Drogba is 15/2 to score first & Chelsea win.)

Drogba has scored six goals in seven games so far and alongside Nicolas Anelka (11/1 to score a brace), who has now claimed the solitary winner in both of Chelsea’s Champions League group matches, will be keeping Rafa Benitez worried ahead of this match.

Benitez pulled no punches either to the press or his players (if Fabio Aurelio is to be believed) after Liverpool’s insipid performance at Fiorentina on Tuesday night. The first half display in particular was turgid and the Merseyside giants cannot afford even a ten minute spell like that if they are to come away from the Bridge with something.

Javier Mascherano (12/1 to score) is expected to return from a hamstring injury and his determination and protection in front of the defence could be key. All but one of the goals Liverpool have conceded in the league this season have come from set-pieces and they will need no warning as to Chelsea’s prowess in this particular aspect of the game.

Whilst the set-pieces have been going past Reina at one end, Liverpool have been excellent going forward this season. Fernando Torres( 11/2 to score first) has claimed five goals in his last two league games and El Nino famously saw off Chelsea with two late goals last February.

Liverpool secured an excellent 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in October last year and the two league wins were offset by Chelsea’s progression in the Champions League under Guus Hiddink.

The Champions League quarter final produced 12 goals, to put that in perspective it took the previous eight league games to surpass that tally. A tight encounter is likely on Sunday (2/1 to be under 2 goals), it could though go either way.

101gg predicts: Chelsea 0 – Liverpool 1 (7/1)

Chelsea 10/11; Draw 11/5; Liverpool 13/5

Full match odds here.