Chelsea vs Liverpool
The weekend’s marquee Premier League tie played out a short time ago.
The clash would see Chelsea and Liverpool face off at Stamford Bridge, in a tie neither outfit could really afford to lose.
Neither team was at full strength on the day. Chelsea were without the services of key men such as Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Romelu Lukaku and Andreas Christensen.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have suffered a second Covid-19 outbreak this week, which saw Alisson, Joel Matip and Roberto Firmino ruled out.
Nevertheless, it was the Reds who took the lead on the day just nine minutes in, when Sadio Mane capitalised on a poor Trevoh Chalobah header before rounding Edouard Mendy to slot home.
Mohamed Salah then doubled their advantage 26 minutes in with a lovely finish before Mateo Kovacic pulled one back 15 minutes later with a superb volley from a Caoimhin Kelleher clearance:
The start of Chelsea’s fightback…💪
Kovacic got their first goal of the match with an absolute stunner! 🚀 pic.twitter.com/EvhnFEnTHF
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 2, 2022
Then, right on the stroke of half-time, Christian Pulisic completed Chelsea’s mini-comeback.
The Blues, however, could not go on to find a winner despite dominating much of the second-half, with the final whistle eventually sounding with the score at 2-2.
Here are four things 101 learned from the game.
Romelu Lukaku decision proves costly?
The major talking point heading into the game was, of course, that Romelu Lukaku interview.
Amid the controversy surrounding the Belgian, Thomas Tuchel opted to omit him from his matchday squad to face Liverpool.
Given the importance of the fixture to Chelsea’s Premier League title hunt, it was a decision that the German no doubt did not take lightly.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 2, 2022
And, after Chelsea failed to win the game, a case could certainly be made that Tuchel’s call proved costly as, though the Londoners threatened for much of the second 45, they failed to find an all-important 3rd.
Would Lukaku’s presence have changed this?
English duo a big miss
The fact that Chelsea scored two goals versus Liverpool suggests that they did not have too much of an issue creating chances on the day.
However, over the course of the 90 minutes, the Blues actually did not create all that much, with one of their goals, of course, a moment of brilliance which Kovacic would likely fail to recreate if given the chance to do so.
There were large spells in the second 45 when Chelsea had Liverpool penned back, looking for a winner.
The west London outfit, though, simply couldn’t find that one extra moment of quality. And a key factor in this was undoubtedly the absence of both Ben Chilwell and Reece James.
Chelsea were already forced to face up to Chilwell’s impending long-term absence. But with James also out on Sunday, the Pensioners’ creativity was pretty non-existent throughout much of the game.
It may seem odd, but the majority of Chelsea’s attacking threat comes from their wing-backs, meaning that, with both James and Chilwell out, they looked rather toothless at times against Liverpool.
Should the European champions therefore look for some fresh wing-back options in the winter transfer window?
Chelsea out of title race?
Chelsea headed into Sunday’s game a full 11 points adrift of Manchester City, with no games in hand (Liverpool have one game in hand).
As a result, given the form of Pep Guardiola’s men, and the fact that they are the least AFCON-affected of the top three sides in the Premier League, Chelsea really could not afford to lose on Sunday.
This is because it is highly difficult to envision the Blues overturning an 11-point deficit in 17 games, whilst also losing Edouard Mendy for around a month.
This potential deficit has now been reduced to 10, but it still seems unlikely that Tuchel’s troops will be able to make up such ground in the final 17 games of the campaign, simply owing to how impressive Man City continue to look.
Mohamed Salah will be a huge miss for Liverpool
It might be pretty obvious at this point, but Sunday’s game once again showcased what a key player Mohamed Salah is for Liverpool, and what a miss he will be this month.
After today’s clash, Salah is set to jet off to Cameroon for the AFCON, which carries on until the 6th of February.
As a result, Liverpool are set to be without their star wide-man for a considerable stretch of games, including their two League Cup semi-final meetings with Arsenal.
As made clear once again against Chelsea, Salah is Liverpool’s MVP, and can come up with a moment of magic out of nowhere.
The best in the world…🌍
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 2, 2022
Will the Reds therefore be able to cope without their star man for around a month?
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Premier League table
|5||West Ham United||20||10||34|
|10||Brighton & Hove Albion||18||-1||24|
|Salah, Mohamed||Liverpool FC||16|
|Jota, Diogo||Liverpool FC||10|
|Vardy, Jamie||Leicester City||9|
|Dennis, Emmanuel||Watford FC||8|
|Antonio, Michail||West Ham United||8|
|Ronaldo, Cristiano||Manchester United||8|
|Son, Heung Min||Tottenham Hotspur||8|
|Smith-Rowe, Emile||Arsenal FC||8|
|Mane, Sadio||Liverpool FC||8|
|Mount, Mason||Chelsea FC||7|
|Sterling, Raheem||Manchester City||7|
|Maupay, Neal||Brighton & Hove Albion||7|
|Silva, Bernardo||Manchester City||7|
|Mahrez, Riyad||Manchester City||6|
|Saka, Bukayo||Arsenal FC||6|
|Gallagher, Conor||Crystal Palace||6|
|Wilson, Callum||Newcastle United||6|
|Cornet, Maxwel||Burnley FC||6|
|Player||Team||Red Cards||Yellow Cards|
|Salisu, Mohammed||Southampton FC||0||6|
|Dennis, Emmanuel||Watford FC||0||6|
|Tarkowski, James||Burnley FC||0||6|
|Laporte, Aymeric||Manchester City||1||5|
|Neves, Ruben||Wolverhampton Wanderers||0||6|
|Bissouma, Yves||Brighton & Hove Albion||0||6|
|Skipp, Oliver||Tottenham Hotspur||0||6|
|James, Reece||Chelsea FC||1||4|
|Fernandes, Bruno||Manchester United||0||5|
|Silva, Bernardo||Manchester City||0||5|
|Pogba, Paul||Manchester United||1||4|
|Cancelo, Joao||Manchester City||0||5|
|Robertson, Andy||Liverpool FC||1||4|
|McGinn, John||Aston Villa||0||5|
|Canos, Sergi||Brentford FC||0||5|
|Rice, Declan||West Ham United||0||5|
|Ritchie, Matt||Newcastle United||0||5|
|Westwood, Ashley||Burnley FC||0||5|
|Alexander-Arnold, Trent||Liverpool FC||9|
|Salah, Mohamed||Liverpool FC||8|
|Bowen, Jarrod||West Ham United||7|
|Jesus, Gabriel||Manchester City||7|
|Pogba, Paul||Manchester United||7|
|Dennis, Emmanuel||Watford FC||5|
|Mount, Mason||Chelsea FC||5|
|James, Reece||Chelsea FC||5|
|Kovacic, Mateo||Chelsea FC||5|
|Cancelo, Joao||Manchester City||5|
|Robertson, Andy||Liverpool FC||5|
|Antonio, Michail||West Ham United||4|
|Mahrez, Riyad||Manchester City||4|
|Saka, Bukayo||Arsenal FC||4|
|Benrahma, Said||West Ham United||4|
|Doucoure, Abdoulaye||Everton FC||4|
|Rice, Declan||West Ham United||4|
|Redmond, Nathan||Southampton FC||4|
|Ronaldo, Cristiano||Manchester United||3|
|Son, Heung Min||Tottenham Hotspur||3|