What to make of Liverpool's performance against Real Madrid is still unclear, though we can at least say with some degree of certainty that they lost 1-0. Could have been worse, could have been better (but also probably not that), could have been the exact same. Liverpool lost, which everyone expected, but the manner in which they lost--or at least who was included as they went about the losing--has proved a larger talking point than the other English embarrassments in the Champions League this week.
We do know that Liverpool will need to be better tomorrow if they're going to get a result, at least in the goalscoring department. In their last two Premier League matches Liverpool have been blanked, and across all competitions they've only scored twice in five matches. It would be great if that changed for the better sometime soon.
So it's not necessarily a good time to be playing the unbeaten league leaders, but after an underwhelming draw in the Champions League at Maribor and an escape against QPR--seriously, nobody leaves it late against them--last weekend at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool will face a Chelsea side that's not quite as high on confidence as they were in the opening weeks of the season. Of course, their form in the season's first month and a half was absurd, so their confidence taking a knock means it's probably still higher than most ahead of tomorrow.
Who Jose Mourinho goes with is still up in the air; Jon Obi Mikel is questionable and Loic Remy is back in training after initially being ruled out for a few more weeks, while Diego Costa should make his full return after coming on as a substitute against Maribor. Each of Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, and Nemanja Matic should be included despite starting midweek. Willian played only a half before being replaced by Oscar, and Ramires could make his way back into the side as well. Defensively we can expect Thibaut Courtois in goal, with John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, and Cesar Azpilicueta likely across the back four.
Manquillo Skrtel Toure Moreno
Sterling Balotelli Coutinho
Hopes of a return for Daniel Sturridge were dashed by Brendan Rodgers in his pre-match presser yesterday, meaning that we'll have to wait another few weeks until the striker is in contention. He remains ruled out with Mamadou Sakho, Jon Flanagan, Jose Enrique, and Suso, while news of a Steven Gerrard hamstring scan earlier in the week don't appear to have any bearing on his availability.
So the big question, then--does Rodgers make any changes based on the performance of The White Towel Brigade at the Bernabeu? After trumpeting the respective qualities of those involved one would think so, but there's easy money on him mostly reverting to type, with a number of regulars likely to come back into the fold after they were rested. Or dropped. Or in the reserves.
Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, and Raheem Sterling are locks to return, and it's more likely that not that Philippe Coutinho and Mario Balotelli are in the eleven as well. There should be a handful that retain their spots despite the quick turnaround; Simon Mignolet will obviously start in goal after his best performance of the season, Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno should continue at right- and left-back, and the Martin Skrtel-Kolo Toure partnership could (and most likely should) be given another chance in central defense. That would again leave Dejan Lovren on the outside looking in, which Rodgers has been hesitant to do.
Gerrard's return surely means that Lucas drops to the bench after a very solid display against Real Madrid, while Lazar Markovic, Fabio Borini, and Adam Lallana would likely have to make way for Sterling, Henderson, and Coutinho. This is probably not the match that Rodgers opts to go with Borini and Balotelli in a partnership, which could force Sterling wide right yet again with Balotelli isolated as the lone striker. That it's expected does not mean it's desired.
Kickoff is set for 12:45PM GMT/7:45AM EST on Saturday, with BT Sport providing coverage in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra carrying the match in the US. Our coverage will start with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have team sheets an hour before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.