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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Tim Ireland/AP/Press Association Images
AS IT HAPPENED
As it happened: Chelsea v Liverpool, Premier League
We were at Stamford Bridge to see if Liverpool could keep their fading hopes of Champions League qualification alive.

Here’s what we know so far: Chelsea are champions, Burnley and QPR have been relegated and no team really wants to play in next season’s Europa League. But, if Liverpool fail to beat Jose Mourinho’s side this afternoon, their slim hopes of Champions League qualification will be all over.

So, plenty to play for if you’re Brendan Rodgers.

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Let’s get to the team news and for the hosts, already champions, they’ve made a few changes.

Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Filipe Luis; Mikel, Loftus-Cheek; Willian, Fabregas, Hazard; Remy

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Lovren, Skrtel, Can, Gerrard, Coutinho, Henderson, Lallana, Sterling, Lambert

So, the highly-rated Ruben Loftus-Cheek makes his first start for the club with other fringe players like Jon Obi Mikel and Felipe Luis included too.

For Liverpool, they’re unchanged from their 2-1 win over QPR last weekend and that means Rickie Lambert retains his place up front.

Jose Mourinho had plenty of nice things to say about Steven Gerrard in the build-up to this game, revealing that he tried to sign him in his first spell at Chelsea, when he was at Inter Milan and in Madrid too.

I continue to wonder whether Gerrard regrets not moving, particularly in light of how his time at Anfield is coming to an end.

By the way, here are the subs for both teams:

Chelsea: Aké, Drogba, Matic, Cuadrado, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Beeney

Liverpool: K Touré, Moreno, Lucas, Allen, Ibe, Sinclair, Ward

As you’ll notice, there’s no Mario Balotelli in the Liverpool squad. When pressed on why this was, Rodgers replied: ‘He’s just not in the squad’. Well that’s cleared that up, hasn’t it?

Mark Beeney – now there’s a blast from the past. Former Leeds goalkeeper. My biggest memory was when he got sent off against Manchester United towards the end of the 95/96 season and without a replacement on the bench, Lucas Radebe had to play in goal. He had a stormer but Roy Keane eventually scored with a low strike from outside the area to give United a precious win.

Manchester United v Leeds United - Carling Premier League - Soccer Laurence Griffiths / EMPICS Sport Laurence Griffiths / EMPICS Sport / EMPICS Sport

Here comes the guard of honour, by the way…

WE’RE UNDERWAY! 

And already, Raheem Sterling is a crumpled heap on the ground after Cesc Fabregas catches him with a very poor challenge. The Spaniard has got a yellow card and we’ve only just played 90 seconds. Sterling is getting a lot of treatment here.

Loftus-Cheek catches Coutinho and that’s another free-kick to Liverpool. The champions look a bit sluggish here but that’s sure to change.

GOAL! John Terry!

What a start that is. A 39th goal for John Terry in the top-flight and that’s a record. He rises highest from the corner and sends the downward header to the bottom corner, despite the best efforts of Steven Gerrard on the line.

It was Rickie Lambert who was challenging Terry and got nowhere near him. Awful from Liverpool and the hosts in control. Could be party time in London and Manchester today.

Watches it all the way but terrible stuff from the guests.
http://vine.co/v/emwjtY20d3Z

Fabregas just pings a superb pass through the middle for Remy and he tries to push his first touch past the on-rushing Mignolet – it very nearly works perfectly but the keeper does well and Liverpool mop up as the ball breaks free.

CLOSE! Some pressure from Liverpool here. Firstly, Glen Johnson burns Ivanonovic along the touchline and can’t quite force the ball across. Then, Coutinho gets the better of Zouma, cuts inside and smacks an effort towards goal. Courtois gets down and makes the save.

Sterling tries his luck from distance after good work from Enre Can but it’s never on target and always veering away from the far corner.

Fabregas seems to bring down Sterling at one end (he’s already been booked) but Andre Marriner doesn’t give a free-kick and play goes on. At the other, Mignolet takes all day with the ball at his feet and very nearly gets dispossessed by Loic Remy. Skrtel gets back to clear the danger…just.

Something to keep an eye on – in light of the tackles that went in in the first few minutes.

Adam Lallana, who really has been a ghost throughout this season, re-appears to bring down Ivanovic along the touchline. It’s a rash tackle and he gets a yellow card for his troubles.

Lots of reaction to Fabregas not being booked a few moments ago. Political decision by Marriner, surely. Also, probably harsh to send him off for two yellows when he’s only made two tackles in the first 20 minutes. The first one was bad but the second was cynical but not x-rated. He needs to be careful though.

Fabregas pops up and attacks the by-line, whips in a superb low cross but Liverpool get it clear. Moments later, on the same side, Skrtel takes down Remy and Chelsea have a free-kick in a great position. The centre-back has also got booked.

Mignolet deals with the floated delivery and punches clear…

CLOSE! Fabregas is involved again, this time down the right channel and races into the area. Surprisingly, he goes to shoot himself but makes a decent fist of it and tests Mignolet – a decent stop by the keeper.

Ah, this is ridiculous from Andre Marriner. Lambert chases a ball that beats him to the by-line while Courtois watches it all the way. The striker clumsily loses his footing and brings down the goalkeeper. Nothing malicious about it but Marriner dishes a yellow card anyway. Crazy stuff.

A strange feel to this game. It started brilliantly – tackles flying in, an early goal, a response from Liverpool. Now, it’s all a bit pedestrian and Lambert is cutting an increasingly frustrated figure up front for the guests.

Fabregas has just left Gerrrad on his arse, much to the delight of the home crowd.

By the way, Kurt Zouma has been forced off with injury so Gary Cahill is on in his place.

In ‘Diego Costa Watch’, it looks like he’s been asked to leave the cheap seats and he’s escorted away. He waves to the crowd and then he’s off for a prawn sandwich or two.

The game has been stop-start in the last while and we have another yellow card as Ivanovic steam-rollers Lallana – certainly payback for earlier. Free-kick to Liverpool…

GOAL! Steven Gerrard!

Well, that’s a nice narrative. Gerrard hangs at the back post as the free-kick is lofted across from the left side. It looks like Mikel who completely loses him and he gets behind the header and cushions it to the bottom corner – almost a caress from the midfielder. No celebration either. Wonder what that’s about.

http://vine.co/v/emw3bEZ1xv2

AND THAT’S HALF-TIME!

That late Gerrard goal has made it interesting but Chelsea were far better in that opening period. A bit of controversy regarding Fabregas with many suggesting he should’ve been sent-off. But Liverpool have something to chase here and despite being out-played, they’re back in it now.

Lambert has struggled to impose himself but hard to see how Liverpool can change things given the lack of options on the bench.

In case you’re wondering about how Ruben Loftus-Cheek has done on his very first start for Chelsea…

Total passes: 23

Passing accuracy 100%

WE’RE UNDERWAY AGAIN!

CLOSE! Much better from Liverpool. Patient build-up with Henderson and Lallana combining. The former Southampton man takes it into the area and looks to fire it across to the bottom corner but it’s a few inches wide.

CLOSE! Oh! That’s nearly a superb strike. Coutinho tries to race onto the ball and control the side-foot strike enough so that it hits the top corner. He doesn’t miss by much after Sterling gets the better of Felipe Luis on the left side before cutting it back at pace.

Great start to the second half by Liverpool. But as I type, Hazard is slipped in by Willian but his first touch is too heavy and the ball slides harmlessly over the by-line. A warning though.

Mikel is having a bit of a nightmare here. Chelsea’s midfield certainly needs re-energising and it’s one of the reasons Liverpool are on top at the moment.

CLOSE! Ooooh! That’s a whisker away. Willian has to check back as Chelsea break clear. The pass is slightly behind him and he has to re-align, giving Liverpool a chance to get back. The angle isn’t too kind to him but he takes it on the outside and whips it across Mignolet…it barely misses past the far post.

And Mikel goes in the book after taking down Sterling along the touchline. Suddenly, Coutinho and Sterling are buzzing around and causing problems for Chelsea.

Lallana is teed up after Sterling goes on a purposeful run into the Chelsea area. As he pulls the trigger, Gary Cahill throws himself at the ball and makes a superb block.

Just to confirm that Namenja Matic is on for Chelsea and Loftus-Cheek has gone off. A solid first start for the young man. He seems likely to have a good future.

More space for Liverpool in this second half and Chelsea happy to sit back. Means Lallana, Sterling and Coutinho are finding more pockets of space

Big moment for the 18-year-old as Rickie Lambert makes way.

Jordan Ibe is also about to come on for Liverpool, by the way. Good to see Rodgers allowing young players to step into a high-profile fixture here.

Lallana makes way for Ibe. A strange one for me. He’s been much-improved since the restart and far more involved.

CLOSE! Great chance for Fabregas as he cuts inside onto his left foot on the edge of the area. But he keeps it dead centre and Mignolet easily deals with it. Had all the goal to aim at and that’s a good chance squandered for the hosts.

Fabregas pops up again, this time in the left channel of the area and he looks to smack it past the advancing Mignolet but Skrtel makes a despairing challenge and blocks.

Sterling pops up close to the by-line and drives in a low cross that Courtois has to get down to and tip around the post.

Felipe Luis looks to exchange shirts with Ibe and Liverpool get the free-kick but nothing comes of it – a wasted delivery.

Another change for Chelsea here as Remy goes off and is replaced by Cuadrado.

Just a few minutes left here and Chelsea seem very happy with a point. Liverpool haven’t managed much in the last while and just as I type that, Coutinho tries his luck from distance, the shot takes a massive deflection and almost catches out Courtois. Ultimately, it doesn’t have enough pace on it and the keeper can adjust and get back to make the stop.

CLOSE! Quickly following Coutinho’s effort, Henderson tries a volley from the edge of the area. It doesn’t miss by much.

Coutinho has just been announced as the Man of the Match. Strange decision. But not many stand-out contenders, to be fair.

AND THAT’S IT! 

So, Liverpool unable to reach the Champions League. Louis van Gaal is probably popping the champagne right about now.

For any pedants, Liverpool have to win their two remaining fixtures, hope United lose theirs and make up the current goal difference deficit of 14 to reach the Champions League.

Mixed performance by the champions but that’s to be expected. Mourinho’s incredible home record continues despite Liverpool being much better in the second half and finding more space to attack and get their key players in the game.

Ultimately, there wasn’t much movement in the final third with Rickie Lambert finding it tough on his own.

Steven Gerrard popped up at full-time with a rather cutting (but brilliant) answer to a question regarding the ovation he got from Chelsea fans when he was replaced.

Thanks for staying with us throughout today’s coverage and there will be plenty of reaction across the site this evening.

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