Liverpool clashes with Chelsea evoke memories of title deciders, cup finals and Champions League classics, so it is indicative of the struggles of both clubs that they meet in a mid-table fixture at Anfield on Saturday, needing a result to avoid sinking deeper into crisis.
Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace last Sunday provided Graham Potter with some relief, and the £88.5million signing of Mykhailo Mudryk, plus the sight of Reece James back in training this week, has helped lift the mood ahead of the trip to Merseyside.
Mudryk could make his debut on Saturday, and a statement win over their old adversaries could help Chelsea shift the narrative and spark their season into life.
The Ukraine winger last played a competitive match on November 23 but has been at a winter training camp with Shakhtar Donetsk. Potter showed with Joao Felix that he is not afraid of throwing new signings straight in, and the Chelsea manager must be tempted to put Mudryk up against Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who endured a torrid afternoon in his side’s 3-0 defeat at Brighton.
Chelsea and Liverpool were once poles apart under Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez, but now the two clubs have more in common than they might think.
Mykhailo Mudryk trains with new Chelsea teammates
Like Potter, Jurgen Klopp faces a rebuilding job at Liverpool. Both clubs are dealing with a crippling injury list and in danger of falling out of the race for European qualification, never mind the Champions League, unless their form improves dramatically. Both sides are level on 28 points, and they will kick-off on Saturday 10 points behind fourth-place Newcastle.
Klopp has the full support of owner John W Henry, whose work at Anfield prior to the decision to put the club up for sale is admired by new Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly. The pair shared a phone conversation before Boehly and Clearlake Capital bought Chelsea last year.
Boehly has seen the benefit of stability under American owners at Liverpool and has given his full support to Potter, despite the struggles of his heavily-depleted side. Chelsea have launched a medical review into their injury crisis but the fitness issues at both clubs are no surprise, given they each played 63 matches last season.
James and Ben Chilwell returned to training this week, but Chelsea will take a cautious approach with both, especially James, after he broke down on his last comeback over Christmas. Raheem Sterling, Christian Pulisic Wesley Fofana, Edouard Mendy, Denis Zakaria and Armando Broja are all out injured, while Felix is suspended.
Liverpool will be without Virgil van Dijk, Luis Diaz, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota. They beat Wolves 1-0 in the FA Cup on Tuesday but are still reeling from their hammering at Brighton last weekend.
Potter has warned Chelsea cannot keep turning to the transfer window for solutions, but the Blues have agreed a £35m fee with PSV to sign Noni Madueke.
His arrival would mean Chelsea have 13 forwards, either in their squad, out on loan or, like Christopher Nkunku, arriving in the summer. For now, Kai Havertz is pushing to lead the line again on Saturday, following his winner against Palace.