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WHEN we look to Sunday afternoon and Wembley it is tempting to revisit Liverpool’s deconstruction of Chelsea at Anfield a mere matter of three weeks ago.

After all, that was definitive proof – if proof were needed – that the Reds presently have the measure of their southern rivals, putting four past them and racking up 28 attempts on goal. Frankly and simply, there were, and are, much the better team and this played out on Merseyside where the visitors huffed and puffed but were comprehensively out-maneuvered.

Only then we acknowledge what has occurred since, seismic changes that has narrowed the disparity between these teams, and what may take place this weekend no longer seems so clear-cut.

Chelsea, feeling aggrieved that evening at a penalty claim despite being bested in every department, then hosted Wolves and promptly shipped in four again and this led to the knives being sharpened for Mauricio Pochettino amidst a season of chaos, crisis and under-achievement.

A subsequent victory at Crystal Palace told us little, besides that Palace have a costly habit of conceding late goals, and then the mid-table strugglers went to the Etihad and so many of us expected a similar scoreline to Anfield.

Back Chelsea to lose out in the disciplinary stakes this weekend, with 31 more league bookings than Liverpool, or 1.2 per 90. Chelsea most cards is a near-banker at 19/20

Only there, against a side that forensically examines and ruthlessly exposes opponents’ flaws better than anyone, Chelsea showed their most impressive version of themselves that we’ve seen all season. They were cohesive and dangerous, defensively resilient while at the other end breaking with real purpose and pace.

Six shots on target and three big chances created is testament to that, all of the latter coming from counter attacks.

Last ditch tackles prompted fist pumps and high fives and though such behaviour can grate it’s also a useful indicator of spirit, and this brings us to Axel Disasi who was superb, a leader.

Ahead of him, Moises Caicedo – so often disappointing in 2023/24 – and Enzo Fernandez rigorously patrolled the half-spaces while Conor Gallagher was his usual ferreting self.

Cole Palmer meanwhile did bits, as he’s constantly done across 2023/24, averaging 1.5 key passes per 90 and scoring or assisting every 98 minutes, and Malo Gusto also stood out, which he tends to more often than not. The 20-year-old, however, usually has a yellow in him, and usually for a rash and avoidable challenge.

His match-up with Andy Robertson down that flank will likely be combative and fascinating.

Liverpool have scored 21 more league goals than Chelsea this season but only two more in the first-half. The Blues to be ahead at the break is a shout at 27/10

We should of course be wary of placing too much significance on a single performance but sometimes it only takes 90 minutes to alter the course of a season. What we saw last Saturday was certainly enough to alter the course of our thinking.

Just three weeks separate an outright thumping at the hands of Liverpool and now, but in that time the Blues have plumbed further depths before getting their act together.

In that time they may have finally found themselves.

As for Liverpool, injuries naturally hold sway but before we get to them it must be highlighted that the scoring of multiple goals continues at apace regardless.

Barring a loss at the Emirates, the title contenders have notched three-plus in all of their league games in 2024, extending on a prolificacy that has seen them fire two-plus goals in 76.9% of their fixtures across all comps. It’s a consistent high volume made possible by a consistent high volume of shots undertaken, a remarkable 19.2 per 90 in the league alone.

Focusing on the form players who have made this happen of late brings us to Alexis Mac Allister whose two assists midweek changed the narrative against Luton. Then there’s Luis Diaz who should be backed in the shots market having taken on ten attempts versus the Hatters, eventually finding the net late on.

It should also be noted that six of Liverpool’s last 11 league goals have come from headers.

Diaz over 0.5 shots on target and Gusto to be booked offers up a tempting 5/1

Does all this suggest therefore that Jurgen Klopp’s men will similarly run riot at Wembley? Perhaps not given Chelsea’s newly discovered fortitude at the back and let’s not forget that these two teams eked out a goalless stalemate in this exact fixture two years ago.

Furthermore, League Cup finals haven’t exactly gifted up many goal-fests in recent times. The last eight have averaged two goals per game.

Under 2.5 goals and Chelsea to win is tremendous value at 13/2

And so to Liverpool’s injuries.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is out, but at least his loss isn’t sorely felt, with Conor Bradley stepping in and announcing himself. The youngster scored and assisted twice at Chelsea’s expense at the end of January.

In midfield Curtis Jones and Dominic Szoboszlai are big misses, as too is Diogo Jota in attack. The Portuguese winger has been one of Liverpool’s most impactful performers since Christmas.

Alisson’s absence is another significant concern, and perhaps it’s telling that the Reds have failed to keep a clean sheet now in seven games.

Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez meanwhile face late fitness tests and who is to say they will be their typical explosive selves even if risked?

On Wednesday evening a 16-year-old resided on the bench and Liverpool’s line-up looked distinctly fallible and weakened. Via some trademark doggedness and Anfield faith that was overcome but Chelsea – or at least the Chelsea of now – are a very different proposition.

Some quick housekeeping before we wrap up.

Don’t discount a penalty being awarded at Wembley this weekend, with Liverpool and Chelsea receiving 15 between them in the Premier League. It maybe matters as well that Chris Kavanagh is officiating, who has given the second most this term.

Cole Palmer is deadly from the spot.

Back a pen to be awarded at 2/1

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