Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho seemed relatively satisfied with his side’s dour 0-0 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates on Monday night and it is clear he set his side up to defend with the hope of nicking a goal on the break. In a match that saw few chances for either side it was Chelsea’s all-time top scorer Frank Lampard who was the closest to breaking the deadlock. His canny run was spotted by the ever-aware Eden Hazard who floated the perfect ball for Lampard to crack on the volley, the ball smashing the underside of the bar before bouncing out to safety.
The point keeps the Blues well and truly in the mix at the top of the table and – prior to the Boxing Day fixtures – they are just two points adrift of leaders Liverpool. But with Brendan Rodgers’ men facing a very tough trip to the Etihad to play Man City (who have a 100% home league record this season) before they head down to Stamford Bridge, victory for Chelsea here could see them claim top spot for themselves or, more likely, second place behind City.
There really is little separating the top sides at the moment with just eight points between the league leaders and eighth-placed Man United. Let’s just repeat that: eighth-place Man United! It’s not often the Red Devils are so low down the division at Christmas, but they – along with the other seven teams at the top – shouldn’t be written off just yet, such has been the topsy-turvy nature of this top flight season.
So can Chelsea get the three points from this one? Yes, of course. But they are also in danger of defeat if Uruguayan hotshot Luis Suarez maintains his outstanding form (19 league goals in just 12 matches so far this term!). If the Blues can (somehow) keep him quiet though, they should have enough firepower of their own (probably from midfield in the form of Hazard and Oscar) to nick the win. Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard will both miss this one with respective ankle and hamstring injuries, and though the likes of Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling have stepped up to the mark in their absence, the Chelsea midfield will be able to handle them with relative ease.
In his interviews after the draw at Arsenal, Mourinho suggested he is happy with the possession and passing side of his team’s performances but that he wants to see more chances (and half chances) being converted into goals. With Swansea the visitors to the Bridge before Liverpool, the home side might well get the chance to find their scoring boots, but against Liverpool we predict a low-scoring affair in which a single goal might well decide the result. Whether that goal goes to Chelsea or Liverpool will depend on whether Suarez can be kept quiet. And we think he can… let’s face it, he’s due an off day!
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 1-0