One glance at this weekend’s fixture list and there’s one Premier League match that sticks out – Sunday’s clash between Liverpool and Chelsea.
For Liverpool, the match long appeared to be a massive hurdle in their march to the title, as the Reds need to take seven of a possible nine points from their last three matches.
For Chelsea, the match appeared to be a last-ditch chance at chasing the title until earlier this week where it became clear that the West London club viewed the fixture as a headache, more than anything else. Despite the Blues 2nd place status in the Premier League if they should win at Anfield they would still need Liverpool to lose one of their final two matches, against Crystal Palace and Newcastle. A Chelsea win on Sunday would therefore serve merely as a means by which 3rd placed Manchester City can coast back into the title race.
And in case you hadn’t noticed, Jose Mourinho is not huge on doing Manuel Pellegrini any favors. Which is why earlier this week ‘The Special One’ announced his intent to play a weakened squad against Liverpool, his punishment for the Premier League’s decision to hold the match on a Sunday rather than a Friday or Saturday.
“We represent English football and are the only team in European competitions,” Mourinho explained after the 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League. “Spain has four and gave them all the conditions to try to have success, so I know what I would do. But I’m not the club. I have to speak to them. I would play with the players who are not going to play Wednesday.”
“The fact that the (Liverpool) match is on Sunday, I think puts the problem not in my hands but in the hands of those who decide the game should be on Sunday and not Saturday or Friday.”
Mourinho was not entirely committed to the idea, however, noting that he would need the backing of owner Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea board if he was to follow through with the B Squad plan.
On Thursday, the Chelsea hierarchy green lighted the plan.
That means Frank Lampard and Mikel John Obi, who are suspended in Europe on card accumulation, are expected to start along with the cup-tied Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah. Branislav Ivanovic, who was banned in Tuesday’s match, is likely to partner Gary Cahill in central defense due to John Terry being ruled out for the season with an ankle injury. That means Cesar Azpilicueta will move to right-back and Ashley Cole is expected to be handed his first start at left-back since January 11th. Mark Schwarzer will replace the injured Petr Cech in goal while the injured Eden Hazard is expected to remain sidelined and Samuel Eto’o is out with a knee issue.
So much for a title-tilt.