Sunday Premier League Odds, Pick, Preview: Chelsea Without Romelu Lukaku Ahead of Clash with Mohamed Salah, Liverpool
James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images. Pictured: Mohamed Salah.
- Chelsea hosts Liverpool in Sunday’s crucial Premier League affair at Stamford Bridge.
- The Blues, who are slight +165 underdogs, will be without Romelu Lukaku for this showdown.
- Anthony Dabbundo breaks down the match below and explains why he’s backing Liverpool.
Chelsea vs. Liverpool Odds
|Over/Under||2.5 (-120 / -105)|
|Day | Time||Sunday | 11:30 a.m. ET|
|How To Watch||USA Network | fuboTV|
|Odds updated as of Sunday at 11 a.m. ET via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute soccer odds here.|
Chelsea and Liverpool were expected to turn the Premier League title race into a three-horse race, and they did so for most of the first half of the season. But the Blues and Reds have dropped points lately to lesser opponents down the table and opened the door for Manchester City to claim a vice grip of the top spot in the league table.
These sides played to a thrilling 1-1 draw at Anfield at the end of August. When they meet on Sunday at Stamford Bridge in West London, three points will be a must for both sides to stay within touching distance of City.
The Blues have just two wins, three draws and one loss in their last six Premier League matches and were pegged back late by Brighton in a 1-1 draw at home on Wednesday. Manager Thomas Tuchel has complained about COVID-19 issues, injuries and fixture congestion, saying it would be “stupid” to think Chelsea could remain in the title race.
Liverpool had a shock loss to Leicester City on the road on Tuesday, after Mohamed Salah missed a penalty and the rebound into a mostly empty net. The Reds didn’t bring their finishing boots that day, and it cost them three points. Liverpool also dropped points at Spurs in a 2-2 draw back on Dec. 19, which was its previous league game due to a COVID-related cancellation.
Despite both teams not being in the dominant early season form at the moment, the underlying numbers suggest that Liverpool is playing significantly better than Chelsea right now and is undervalued in the market.
Chelsea Regressing as Season Progresses
Chelsea conceded just four goals and kept eight clean sheets in its opening 12 matches. Its defense was allowing goals at a historically rare pace despite underlying numbers that suggested it was pretty fortunate to not be conceding nearly a goal per game.
Since the game against Manchester United on Nov. 28, the Blues have conceded 10 goals in eight league matches and kept only one clean sheet in those games. The defensive regression has come for the Blues in a big way, as Edouard Mendy is no longer bailing them out and the opponents are no longer finishing chances at an unsustainably poor rate against them.
It was always going to be near impossible to sustain the historically good defensive play of last spring for the Blues, and that’s been clearly true this season. Chelsea’s numbers are still relatively elite at both ends of the pitch — clearly the third best team in the PL and one of the five best teams in the world — but not on the level of their opponents.
Chelsea has had trouble integrating striker Romelu Lukaku into the team that has been a pressing machine this year. The Belgian does very little defensive work, and Chelsea has him playing a lot more solely in the penalty area as opposed to some of the ball progression from outside the box he helped do at Inter Milan last year.
When he’s on the pitch, Chelsea is more vulnerable to be passed through, as was evident when Brighton held the Blues without a shot for 40 minutes and controlled more of the possession in that game. This is especially true when N’Golo Kanté isn’t on the pitch, and Kanté has struggled to go a full 90 minutes of late as he returns from injury.
Don’t understate the impact of injuries, either, as both clubs have two fullbacks/wing backs that are excellent ball progressors and chance creators. Liverpool will have Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right wing, while Reece James and Ben Chillwell will miss this game for Chelsea. The Blues will also be without attacker Timo Werner and center back Andreas Christensen.
Don’t Worry About Shocking Liverpool Defeat
It’s easy to overreact to one game that saw Liverpool fail to take a few big scoring chances that resulted in a stunning 1-0 loss to Leicester City. But the reality of this Liverpool side is that it had more touches in the opposition penalty area against Leicester than any team has had against any opponent in the Premier League this season.
Liverpool has elite numbers everywhere, from ball progression to chance creation to shots to xG to goals. The Reds aren’t quite at City’s level defensively due to their aggressive pressing system under Jurgen Klopp, but the +1.49 xGD per 90 is the best the Reds have ever had under Klopp, even better than the 2019-20 title winning team.
Alexander-Arnold has 50 passes into the penalty area, which is first in the league. He’s fourth in passes into the final third and is third in shot-creating actions. He’s averaging an 0.53 xG + xA per 90, meaning he’s contributing more than a goal or assist every other game. He’s been incredible producing for the Reds and his partnership with Mohamed Salah on the right wing has been unstoppable at times.
Given that Chelsea ranks just 12th in crosses allowed into the penalty area, Alexander-Arnold’s elite crossing ability could create one or two big chances for the Reds alone.
There are some COVID concerns for the Reds and Klopp will not be on the sideline, but unless it breaks into the first XI, it’s unlikely to really have an impact on the match itself. Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk have also recently recovered from COVID-19, as well.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The market has been moving quite a bit in the lead up to this game, as the Reds were -105 at open on the Draw No Bet line, before being steamed all the way to -135 on Thursday. Since the COVID news has affected Liverpool and Klopp, the market has moved back toward Chelsea and turned this match back into a true toss-up.
My projections make the Reds -130 on the Draw No Bet line, and the idea these two teams are at or near equals at the moment just doesn’t hold up when you look at any of their underlying numbers.
Liverpool is a lot closer to Manchester City than Chelsea in terms of team strength, attacking performance and xG difference, and the market is pricing them much closer to Chelsea here.
The Reds should be able to move the ball easily into the final third given Chelsea’s recent issues pressing from the front and preventing teams from moving the ball through the middle against them.
Even if both teams are struggling for results at the moment, only Chelsea has seen a dip in relative performance and that’s why Liverpool is undervalued away from home.
Pick: Liverpool — Draw No Bet (-125 or better)