Three left to play. All the pressure, all the narratives, all the mind games, all the ETW and ETB comes down to nine points across the next three weeks. Tomorrow against Chelsea at Anfield, a nasty trip to Selhurst Park and Tony Pulis' resilient Crystal Palace side, and the final day of the season, likely with everything left to play for, in front of the home supporters once again as Newcastle visit.
There's almost too much romance to consider, but if there's one thing in which we can be confident, it's that Brendan Rodgers will have his side both grounded and prepared for the task at hand. There have been more than a few potential slip-ups along the way, and at every turn--at least in their last eleven--they've managed to get a result.
Tomorrow could be the most significant result, one that would eliminate Chelsea from the title race for good and edge Liverpool ever closer to their first Premier League title. And it should be entirely straightforward, what with Jose Mourinho promising a weakened side and eyes on the second leg of their Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid and that 1-2 result to Sunderland at Stamford Bridge last weekend. Right? Right. Probably not.
Mourinho does have some reason for concern; John Terry, Petr Cech, and Eden Hazard have been ruled out through injury and Ramires will serve the first of a four match ban for striking Seb Larsson in the face last Saturday. With Atletico's visit looming large, Mourinho has hinted/jinx-hinted at going with a weakened side--effectively ruling out most of those who started on Tuesday--but Rodgers' words aren't just mind games:
"I've seen some things written about them playing a weaker team but I think it's hugely disrespectful to their players if they're deemed to be the weaker ones in the squad. Whatever team they put out, it'll cost more money than ours and it'll be more experienced than ours."
Accounting for those injured and rested for the Champions League, Chelsea's lineup could possibly include Mark Schwarzer in goal, Tomas Kalas, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, and either Ashley Cole or Nathan Ake at the back, with Nemanja Matic, Frank Lampard, and John Obi Mikel in the midfield, and Mohamed Salah, Andre Schurrle, and Demba Ba up front.
Johnson Skrtel Sakho Flanagan
Lucas Gerrard Allen
Johnson Skrtel Sakho Flanagan
Daniel Sturridge will hopefully be available, though as of yesterday he wasn't confirmed as fit for selection. Jordan Henderson will serve the second of his three match ban, while Jose Enrique continues to see out the rest of the season on the treatment table. Victor Moses misses out due to terms of his loan agreement.
Everything hinges on whether or not Sturridge is available--how Liverpool line up in the midfield and how they look going forward will be dictated by the fitness of the 20-goal man. Without him in the starting eleven I would guess we see something similar to what we did at Norwich. If Sturridge is ready, then we know the plan, then it's likely back to the diamond or some variant of what Liverpool's done in home matches against Everton and Arsenal.
Few other changes seem likely; Daniel Agger could come back into the eleven for Mamadou Sakho after the Frenchman's relatively shaky display at Norwich, but that would be the only alteration to an eleven that's otherwise going to be settled barring fitness concerns until Henderson's ban expires.
Kickoff is set for 2:05PM BST/9:05AM EST, with Sky Sports 1 carrying coverage in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra airing the match live 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.