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Premier League: Chelsea meet Liverpool with a lot at stake for both

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London, Jan 1 (IANS) Chelsea’s new year starts with a pair of huge home matches in the Premier League — first against Liverpool on Sunday and then against Tottenham Hotspur on January 6.

Second-placed Chelsea take on Liverpool, in third, for the first big broadsides of 2022. The Blues are second-best on form over the past eight games on the road, but at home, there is plenty of room for improvement.

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Stamford Bridge embraces few wins more enthusiastically than those against the Reds. The reverse fixture at Anfield ended 1-1 despite Reece James’ controversial first-half dismissal, earning plaudits for a defensive masterclass from Thomas Tuchel’s side.

With manager Juergen Klopp out with suspected COVID symptoms, Liverpool arrive in south-west London on Sunday afternoon currently a point and a place behind the Blues, albeit having played one game fewer.

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However, it is Manchester City currently setting the pace out front having extended their lead to 11 points on Saturday with a narrow 2-1 win against Arsenal. While City is on a winning streak, Tuchel’s men had dropped points at home to Brighton midweek while Liverpool lost at Leicester.

That growing gap has led some pundits to ponder over whether City retaining the title is now just an inevitability, though Tuchel is not prepared to wave the white flag just yet.

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“We don’t give up anything because why should we stop in the middle of the race?” said the Chelsea boss in his pre-game press conference on Friday.

“We don’t really think about this stuff too much. We do think about who plays, what we tell the team today, how we approach the team. I know other people think a lot about this but we actually never do,” Tuchel was quoted as saying by the club’s official website.

However, the Chelsea head coach accepts their recent home form, with one win in five league matches at Stamford Bridge, has been indifferent. A good home record would otherwise have placed his side in a much more favourable position at the turn of the calendar year, he said.

“We had three games at home now where we conceded late equalisers after dominating all the statistics, with clearly better chances but we are purely unlucky,” he continued.

“It’s a matter of six points that we lose because you have three draws instead of three wins so it obviously hurts us because with six points more we would have a completely different feeling around New Year’s Eve.

“We have the feeling that we invest a lot and squeeze the lemon but it’s like squeezing the same lemon over and over again but expecting there always to be fresh juice coming out,” he said.

Despite the threat of COVID-19 virus, Stamford Bridge is expected to witness an electric atmosphere with Liverpool too in good form. Chelsea’s first game of 2022 could be a difference-maker and Tuchel is hopeful that things will turn in his team’s favour on Sunday.

–IANS

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