Champions-elect to edge closer to title

 
Bill Esdaile
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BEN CLEMINSON AND BILL ESDAILE PREVIEW THE BEST OF THE WEEKEND’S FOOTBALL AND RACING ACTION

LIVERPOOL are now as short as 1/5 with Star Sports to lift their first Premier League trophy but defeat against Chelsea on Sunday would blow the title chase wide open.

The Blues, 33/1-shots, would still need snookers after a win but it would bring Manchester City, currently available at 5/1, right back into the frame.

After the season they have had, and the manner in which they have performed, it is hard to argue that Liverpool don’t deserve to become English champions for the 19th time – and I think they will get the job finished.

No sooner was the final whistle blown on Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semi-final than Jose Mourinho’s mind games began.

Injuries to Petr Cech and John Terry aside, his claims that he’ll have to field a weakened team are a bit of a nonsense when you consider the Portuguese’s starting XI is likely to feature Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel, both suspended for the second leg, and cup-tied pair Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah.

However, data from the 21st Club’s Costly Injuries table shows that 20.9 per cent of the total value of Mourinho’s squad is currently sidelined, compared to just 11.3 per cent at Liverpool.

Brendan Rodgers’ ability to rely on a settled pool of key players has been vital to their success and he will have everything crossed that Daniel Sturridge can shake off his hamstring injury and join Luis Suarez upfront.

The deadly duo, with an astounding 50 league strikes between them, have outscored every team outside of the top eight.

Even if 20-goal Sturridge fails to make it, Liverpool still look good, at 7/10 with Star Sports, for the all-important three points this weekend.

They come into the game fresh after a week’s rest and in the form of their lives following 11 straight top flight victories.

Chelsea, on the other hand, are in danger of collapsing over the finish line after shock defeats against Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland in recent weeks.

Their away record is average – the sixth-best in the division – and, although they have the meanest defence on the road, letting in just 15, they have only scored 24 times.

Liverpool have been dominant at Anfield with too many standout performances to highlight just one or two.

While I anticipate another famous victory it will be a hard-earned one in a match where the entertainment might not equal the billing.

Backing Liverpool to win 1-0 at 8/1 with Star Sports appeals in the correct score market.

■ Pointers…
Liverpool to beat Chelsea at 7/10 with Star Sports
Liverpool to win 1-0 at 8/1 with Star Sports