Liverpool v Chelsea preview: Full-strength Reds target Europa League qualification
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 11/05/16 7:26pm
A full-strength Liverpool host Chelsea at Anfield on Wednesday night - live on Sky Sports 2 HD from 7.55pm - looking to maintain their hopes of qualifying for next season's Europa League.
Jurgen Klopp's side are currently in eighth, two points behind seventh-in-the-table Southampton and four points behind sixth-placed West Ham United, but with a game in hand on their rivals.
With the top seven in the Premier League likely to qualify for Europe next season, the Reds know a midweek win over Chelsea will almost certainly put entry into the Europa League in their own hands.
"I'm not too interested in when Chelsea can next win the title and I have no idea when we can but I promise we will try everything to build on the base of this season," said Klopp, who is preparing for his 50th match in charge of the club.
"We can get sixth position, it isn't the biggest success in the history of Liverpool, but everyone interested in Liverpool can see the good signs and we will build on it.
"We have to improve and I am sure we will. A lot of things need to be perfect for a really good season."
The Blues, meanwhile, travel to Merseyside with nothing but pride to play for after a disappointing defence of the title they won last season.
And interim head coach Guus Hiddink knows just what a tough challenge his players will face on Wednesday, especially given Liverpool's transformation since Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers at the club in October.
"They made a good (managerial) change," said the Dutchman. "It is club with a huge history and it is an energetic team Klopp has formed. They can be very resilient," Hiddink said.
"They have a good skilful team but are also mentally tough and it is nice to see."
Liverpool are likely to restore most of their first-choice players after resting eight in the 2-0 home win against Watford on Sunday.
Three of the back four will return in Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure - Alberto Moreno played against the Hornets - with Emre Can and James Milner set to start in midfield.
Striker Daniel Sturridge is set to get a run-out up front after being an unused substitute at the weekend, while Adam Lallana, who was not even in the squad against Watford, is also expected to be recalled, and left-back Brad Smith is back in the squad after suspension.
As for the visitors, captain John Terry begins a two-match suspension on Wednesday. Thibaut Courtois returned from a ban in goal in the 3-2 loss at Sunderland, when Terry was sent off for the second time this season to incur the season-ending suspension.
Loic Remy, Diego Costa and Branislav Ivanovic are all injured, Pedro may miss out with a broken nose suffered at home, while defender Kurt Zouma (knee) is a long-term absentee.
Victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this season ended a run of six Premier League games without a win against the Blues for the Reds (D3 L3).
Liverpool have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last nine Premier League games against Chelsea and conceded two goals in each of the last three meetings at Anfield.
The first goal of the game has been scored in the opening 10 minutes in four of the last five league meetings between Liverpool and Chelsea.
If Liverpool win it will be the 27th home win in this fixture in the Premier League (currently 13 each) - no Premier League fixture has had more (Liverpool v Newcastle also 27).
Chelsea have conceded 50+ goals in a Premier League season (51) for the first time since 1996/97 when they conceded a joint-club-record 55 in the competition (also in 1994/95).
Paul Merson's prediction
Chelsea looked as though they were going to spoil the party at Sunderland, but they are not playing with the same intensity and twice gave up the lead.
Some of the squad will have an eye on the Euros and I fancy Liverpool, who keep going from strength to strength, to get the victory.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-1 (Sky Bet odds 15/2)
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