Pitchside

The Chelsea wild card who could help crush Liverpool’s dreams

Pitchside

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Despite Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho claiming that he intends to field a weakened team in the crucial Premier League fixture against Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, there is one member of the Blues' side that will be all too familiar to Brendan Rodgers.

Egyptian international Mohamed Salah attracted strong interest from the Merseysiders in January, only for Mourinho to outmanoeuvre his rivals in the transfer market and complete the £12 million signing of the youngster from Swiss club Basel.

The Northern Irishman will be well aware of the threat the 21-year-old can pose to his side after taking an interest in his abilities for so long only to be duped by his Portuguese counterpart when his transfer was seemingly a forgone conclusion.

Salah has made just seven league appearances for Chelsea since his arrival, but with the West Londoners' squad stretched to its limits following injuries and suspensions the forward has started all of Chelsea's previous three fixtures.

He has seized his chance in the team and has claimed the third best Performance Score within the whole squad during his new found starting role and will hope to continue in the same vein this weekend.

Chelsea Top Performance Scorers From Last Three Games

Given that he is cup tied for the Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, with his impressive performances against his current employers one of the chief reasons why he was purchased by Mourinho, he is highly likely to be deployed on the right of the midfield three in Chelsea's trusted 4-2-3-1 formation.

In truth Salah is still feeling his way into English football with his debut and recent run in the team slipping under the radar somewhat as his manager continues to grab the headlines and deflect attention away from his players.

It often takes one stand out moment of brilliance to make people sit up and take notice in the Premier League - but Salah is yet to spark into life against formidable opposition. Granted he managed to scored his first goal against a top four side in the form of Arsenal, but he was merely a subplot in the 6-0 rout of the Gunners.

With a starting berth against Liverpool and the likelihood that other star midfielders will not be on show, Salah has a huge opportunity to announce his arrival. Anfield may well be a fortress at present but the Egyptian could prove to be a thorn in Rodgers' side.

The former Basel man possesses pace and plenty of it, which could be the key to success if Mourinho's side are to close the gap at the top of the league to just two points. Salah's opposite number will be Jon Flanagan, who has acquitted himself well since he broke into the Liverpool first-team, but the Englishman could be exposed.

Liverpool may well have scored 96 goals but they have conceded 44 for a reason, their defence has obvious flaws. With Mourinho set to field a defensive line-up that is designed to play on the counter-attack, Salah is an excellent out ball to be able to unleash as Chelsea look to attack quickly and in numbers.

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Rodgers is unlikely to change the way his team play, with their array of attacking talent few can blame him, but it leaves his side vulnerable on occasions. Salah has completed 12 take-ons during his spate of starts at an average of four per game, but he might only need one opportunity to carve out a crucial chance.

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Mohamed Salah Duels From Last Three Games

If the Reds do not score early against a resolute Chelsea defence they will push for a winner in the second half, which might just play into Salah's hands. He is at ease collecting ball in wide areas but also enjoys interchanging with the midfield.

With a well taken goal and assist to his name in the routine victory over Stoke, Salah's confidence is growing. To go from his Swiss side's talisman to a squad player at Chelsea, is difficult to adapt to in such a shot space of time and that has been obvious in moment of uncharacteristic indecisiveness.

However, Liverpool's bandwagon will be difficult to derail and Mourinho's men will need a near perfect defensive performance similar to the effort they produced in the Vicente Calderon if Salah will be given the opportunity to succeed and not spend the afternoon chasing red shadows.

In a week that has been steeped in irony for Chelsea following Petr Cech's injury with Thibaut Courtois between the sticks for their opponents. If it proves to be Salah that dents Liverpool's title hopes, the irony will not be lost on Rodgers, given the Egyptian was on the verge of joining his resurgent Reds only a matter of months ago.

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