MATCH :LiverpoolV/s.Chelsea(Premier League)
TIME :12.45 AM IST (UTC +5:30)
Liverpool XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk(c), Robertson, Keita, Tavares, Wijnaldum, Salah Ghaly, Roberto Firmino, Mané
👥Subs: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adrián, Shaqiri, Minamino, Lallana, Origi, Milner, Lovren, Jones
⭕Chelsea XI: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta(c), Zouma, Rüdiger, James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso, Willian, Mount, Giroud
👥Subs: Christensen, Caballero, Tomori, Hudson-Odoi, Loftus-Cheek, Emerson, Abraham, Pulisic, Pedro
Liverpool will finally get their hands on the Premier League trophy for the very first time on Wednesday night when they welcome Champions League-chasing Chelsea to Anfield in their final home game of an unforgettable season.
While the main event for the hosts will be after the game, the match itself is of paramount importance to the visitors as they look to secure a top-four spot with a game to spare.
Alan Hansen was the last Liverpool captain to lift the league trophy above his head some 30 years ago, before the Premier League was even in existence.
On Wednesday night, Jordan Henderson will become the 10th Liverpool skipper to do so, adding his name to an illustrious list which includes Hansen, Graeme Souness, Phil Thompson, Emlyn Hughes, Tommy Smith, Ron Yeats, Willie Fagan, Donald McKinlay and Alex Raisbeck.
It will be a trophy presentation with a difference given the lack of fans in the stadium, with a special podium set to be erected on the Kop and club icon Sir Kenny Dalglish being drafted in to hand out the medals.
It is a moment which has been longed for by Liverpool fans for a generation and will mark the crowning glory of a season which will go down in English football history, although most previous champions will tell you that defeat in the game before lifting the trophy takes some of the shine off it.
Liverpool will therefore be hoping to mark a celebratory occasion with victory over the team that handed them the title with seven games to spare, with Chelsea’s triumph over Manchester City last month officially sending the trophy to Anfield.
Since then there has undoubtedly been a drop-off from Liverpool, which in the grand scheme of things will be forgotten about relatively quickly but will still irk both manager Jurgen Klopp and his players.
The Merseysiders had a glorious chance to record the best single season in English top-flight history having dropped only two points from their opening 27 games, but since then they have won four, drawn two and lost three.
In all competitions Liverpool have now lost more games (six) than they have won (five) over their last 13 outings, the most recent defeat coming at the hands of Arsenal at the Emirates courtesy of uncharacteristically sloppy errors from Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker.
That result ended any hope Liverpool had of breaking the all-time points record, with 99 now the limit heading into their final two games of the campaign, but there are still a few landmarks up for grabs.
Klopp’s side could still record the biggest title-winning margin – their lead of 18 points is one short of the current record – while victory on Wednesday would see them equal the records for most home points and most home wins in a single season.
Liverpool had been on course to record the first ever perfect home campaign until a 1-1 draw with Burnley in their last such outing – a result which ended an unprecedented run of 24 consecutive league wins at Anfield.
The 58-game unbeaten home run, during which they have now scored 150 goals, continues, but unless the champions can improve on their recent form it could be under threat from a Chelsea team with much more to play for on Wednesday.
Frank Lampard’s side remain in pole position to claim one of the two remaining top-four spots, but there is little margin for error heading into a difficult season-ending double-header away to Liverpool and at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Chelsea could even be knocked down to fourth place by the time this match kicks off with Manchester United hosting West Ham United in the earlier kickoff on Wednesday evening, although regardless of what happens there, Chelsea’s fate remains in their own hands.
Indeed, Leicester City’s defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday means that Lampard’s side need just one win from those final two games to guarantee a top-four finish.
That alone would constitute a successful first season in charge for Chelsea’s club-record goalscorer, who had to contend with a transfer ban and a 4-0 defeat in his first match at the helm when initially taking over a year ago.
It could get even better than Champions League qualification, though, with victory over United in their FA Cup semi-final on Sunday sending them through to the final for a 14th time and leaving Lampard just 90 minutes away from marking his debut season with a major trophy.
It has by no means been plain sailing, though, with Chelsea losing 11 times in the league this season – only once in the Roman Abramovich era have they lost more in a single campaign.
The Blues also have one of the worst defensive records away from home this season, and should they fail to keep a clean sheet at Anfield – something no team has managed since October 2018 – then they will set a new club record for most away goals conceded in a single Premier League campaign.
That tally was not helped by a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United in their last away game, although back-to-back triumphs over Norwich City and Man United since then ensure that they travel to Merseyside in encouraging form.