Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson has claimed Saturday’s Premier League clash between Liverpool and Chelsea could be huge for the season.
Taking to his top-flight predictions column for Sportskeeda, the former Arsenal man has suggested the result could have implications on who finishes in the top-four and who misses out on Champions League qualification.
“Ninth place against tenth place – is this a big game?” Merson wrote.
“I’ll go as far as to say that whoever loses this match is completely out of the Premier League top-four race. This is a massive game. The team that wins this game could go on a run and really push for a place in the top four.
“Liverpool got blown away by Brighton the other day. I did mention that there was no way Brighton were going to lose that game, and they deserved to win. The Liverpool players who played against Wolves aren’t going to play on Saturday. Mohamed Salah isn’t closing down like he used to. They need to go back to closing down and winning the ball high up the pitch – they’re not doing that at all at the moment.
“This is going to be an interesting game. Chelsea have got injuries and aren’t playing great football, but if they can get through the first 20 minutes, they’ve got a chance. Cody Gakpo’s been struggling a bit so far – I can’t remember players for Holland coming in and ripping it up in the Premier League in the last couple of years. He’ll need time, and he might need to come out of the team for a game or two.
“Liverpool have got to hang in there and win matches until the likes of Jota and Diaz are back. They need to get their confidence back up and get on a roll. There’s not a lot between these two teams, and I think this game will end in a draw. Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea.”
Merson predicts a draw for Liverpool vs Chelsea
With both teams sitting on 28 points, this is a must-win match if either club hope of finishing the season in the top-four.
The Reds have a game in-hand over the Blues, so Graham Potter’s men will be desperate to gain three points.
Either way, the task at hand will remain extremely difficult.
Liverpool are ten points behind fourth-place Newcastle. Although they also have a game in-hand over the Toon and third-place Manchester United, a seven- and eight-point lead will be tough to catch.
The Magpies have lost just one game all season, and the Red Devils looked to have turned a corner with Erik ten Hag at the helm.
Even if Klopp’s side go on a monstrous run, any chance of Champions League football will depend on the two teams above dropping points.
Having lost 2-1 to United back in August, the Reds will need a return win to gain any momentum over their rivals.