After a satisfactory midweek win over Porto which leaves them on the cusp of the Champions League semi-finals, Liverpool resume their quest for a first Premier League title on Sunday with their final game against a fellow top-six outfit this season. Chelsea are the visitors to Anfield, a venue that has been a happy hunting ground for the Londoners in this decade, and they appear to have turned a corner after some dreadful performances in March.
The Reds currently lead the Premier League table but could find themselves knocked off the top again by the time they kick off, with Manchester City playing earlier in the day knowing that a win away to Crystal Palace gives them the edge temporarily. Our statistical analysis looks at the recent form of Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as seeking out trends from previous meetings and putting the microscope on the Merseysiders’ happy knack of scoring decisive late goals.
Last six Premier League games
Liverpool: W5, D1, L0, F16, A5, Pts 16
Chelsea: W4, D1, L1, F10, A5, Pts 13
Liverpool have won their last six matches in all competitions going back to the goalless Merseyside derby at the beginning of March, although the 2-0 win over Porto in midweek was their first clean sheet since then. They have made a real habit of winning matches with late goals; in their last three league games against Fulham, Tottenham and Southampton, the Reds were on course to draw in the 80th minute before turning each of those into victories. Should they avoid defeat on Sunday, they will surpass the two-year mark without losing at Anfield in the Premier League. That last occurred on 23 April 2017 when Crystal Palace were the victors.
It isn’t just Liverpool who know the significance of the final 10 minutes of matches. Chelsea were heading to a tame defeat at Cardiff two weeks ago, with irate cries of “We want Sarri out” billowing from the away end, until two late goals saw the Blues steal a 2-1 victory. Subsequent wins over Brighton and West Ham have lifted the Londoners from sixth to third, even if the three teams beneath them all have a game in hand. They did lose on their last trip to Merseyside, though, with Everton beating them 2-0 at Goodison Park a month ago.
Premier League head-to-head record
Chelsea are one of the few clubs who have a superior head-to-head record against Liverpool in the Premier League era, their 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge last season pushing them one win clear of the Reds in their mutual clashes. The Blues have a very good record at Anfield in recent seasons; they haven’t lost there in their last eight visits in all competitions dating back to May 2012, when Liverpool ran out 4-1 winners in an inconsequential league clash three days after losing to Chelsea in the FA Cup final. The last three league meetings at Anfield have all finished 1-1; the last one with a decisive result was Chelsea’s 2-1 win in November 2014.
Both clubs have had their own fond memories of this fixture over the years. Patrik Berger inspired a glorious 5-1 win for Liverpool in 1997/98, with Kopites also happy to recall Jermaine Pennant’s stunning volley in a 2-0 win in 2007, the two stoppage-time goals to secure victory in 2009 and Fernando Torres tearing his future employers apart in November 2010.
However, Chelsea fans continue to revel in the fortuitous 2-0 win at Anfield five years ago which spelled the beginning of the end of Liverpool’s title hopes. In October 2005, also under Jose Mourinho, the Blues romped to a 4-1 victory on Merseyside, while Anfield was the venue for Chelsea’s first Premier League win of the Roman Abramovich era on the opening day of the 2003/04 season.
Last Anfield meeting
Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea, 26 September 2018
It seems a long time ago now, but Chelsea have already been to Anfield this season and won there. That was the Blues’ first step on a road that ultimately took them to the Carabao Cup final, and Kepa Arrizabalaga’s unflattering moment of insubordination. After a goalless first half, Daniel Sturridge gave Liverpool a 58th-minute lead with a superb acrobatic effort; even that was surpassed by the late equaliser he unleashed in the teams’ league meeting at Stamford Bridge three days later.
Liverpool led going into the final 11 minutes but the game swung on an equaliser for Emerson Palmieri that was contentiously awarded after a VAR review. There was nothing untoward about Chelsea’s winning goal, however. Not for the last time this season, Eden Hazard produced a scintillating solo effort, the Belgian’s brilliance taking Maurizio Sarri’s men into round four and consigning the Reds to their first defeat of the season.
Liverpool’s reliance on late goals in 2018/19
When Liverpool were last challenging for the title in 2014, they earned a reputation for being quick starters, frequently scoring in the first 15 minutes of games. This time around, they’ve made a habit of striking decisive goals close to the final whistle. Indeed, 15 of their 75 league goals (20%) have come from the 80th minute onwards. How would this season have been different if the Reds had not scored from 80+ minutes in games? Here are the games which would have been affected and how that would have altered the table:
Score at 80 mins
|West Ham (H)||4-0||3-0|
|Crystal Palace (A)||2-0||1-0|
|Crystal Palace (H)||4-3||3-2|
Had those 80-minute scorelines come to fruition, the top two in the Premier League would currently read:
1st Man City: P32, W26, D2, L4, F83, A21, Pts 80
2nd Liverpool: P33, W21, D10, L2, F60, A17, Pts 73
In 14 of their 33 Premier League games this season, Liverpool have scored in the final 10 minutes of games. While a few of those instances were further embellishing an already healthy lead, there were five matches where those late Reds goals altered the final result. They would have had nine points fewer without goals from the 80th minute onwards, which would leave them seven behind Manchester City with a game more played. That would surely have been too big a gap to pull back on the reigning champions, so Liverpool’s frequent late shows are genuinely keeping them in the title hunt.