Late October isn’t the best time of year for Premier League characters who scare easily, as on- and off-the-field surprises with the potential to derail campaigns lurk around every corner.
The 11th round of the 2015-16 Premier League season takes place this weekend amid one of the busiest periods of the club soccer calendar. Many of the 20 teams are coming off midweek games in the Capital One Cup (Football League Cup), and some face either UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League games next week. Those that lose sight of the immediate task at hand do so at their own peril.
The Premier League standings remain uncharacteristically tight after 10 weeks, and three points won or dropped can change a team’s direction as the temperatures cool for the coming months. Halloween is no time to lose one’s nerve in the heat of a long battle.
Games between rivals Liverpool and Chelsea usually carry significance beyond the scramble for points, and Saturday’s contest at Stamford Bridge should be no different from the others.
The teams are enduring difficult starts to the season, with host Chelsea sitting in 15th place with 11 points and Liverpool in ninth with 14 points.
The tenures of Chelsea manger Jose Mourinho and his Liverpool counterpart, Jurgen Klopp, will be at the center of the story.
Liverpool won its first-ever game under Klopp on Wednesday with a 1-0 triumph over Bournemouth. Klopp enjoyed that first taste of success, and a victory over Chelsea will fuel the ongoing euphoria that started with his arrival earlier this month.
Stoke City eliminated Chelsea from the competition it won last season, piling increased pressure on Mourinho. Some media outlets claim Chelsea will fire Mourinho if it loses against Liverpool, and the soccer world’s attention will turn to West London to discover the fate of one of the best managers of this era in real time.
The availability and performances of leading strikers will bear heavily on the game’s outcome. Chelsea has the fourth-worst defensive record in the league this season. Liverpool boasts the seventh-best defense.
Chelsea’s Diego Costa on Tuesday suffered a rib injury, which required a hospital visit to treat. Costa is questionable for the Liverpool game. Loic Remy could lead Chelsea’s attack if Costa can’t play.
Christian Benteke scored a memorable goal last weekend in Liverpool’s draw against Southampton. A knock prevented Benteke from playing against Bournemouth, but Klopp expects him to feature against Chelsea. Daniel Sturridge remains out of action, meaning Divock Origi will deputize for Benteke as Liverpool’s main striker if his countryman can’t recover in time for the trip to West London.
Prediction: Draw. Both teams should score, so 1-1 sounds about right.
Premier League Round 11 schedule (home teams listed first; all kickoff times ET):
Saturday, Oct. 31
Chelsea vs. Liverpool, 8:45 a.m.
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City, 11 a.m.
Manchester City vs. Norwich City, 11 a.m.
Newcastle vs. Stoke City, 11 a.m.
Swansea City vs. Arsenal, 11 a.m.
Watford vs. West Ham, 11 a.m.
West Brom vs. Leicester City, 11 a.m.
Sunday, Nov. 1
Everton vs. Sunderland, 8:30 a.m.
Southampton vs. Bournemouth, 11 a.m.
Monday, Nov. 2
Tottenham vs. Aston Villa, 3 p.m.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@ESPNFC