It appears Jose Mourinho has forsaken country glory for continental title aspirations as he brings undermanned and injury-ravaged Chelsea to Anfield on Sunday versus a top-form Liverpool side aiming to take another huge step toward their first Premier League title.
No team has overturned a five-point deficit in the final three matches to win the Premier League - the state Chelsea (23-6-6) currently find themselves between their two-legged Champions League semifinal tie against Spanish side Atletico Madrid. The barrage of fixtures has taken a toll on the Blues, whose league hopes were crippled with a shocking home loss to Sunderland before they played out a cagey scoreless draw at Atletico on Tuesday.
''We had to be safe, don't concede and score in the chances you create,'' Mourinho said. ''If you score a goal in one of those situations the result would be very good. We didn't, but this result means everything will be decided at Stamford Bridge.''
That scoreline, however, came at a staggering price. Goalkeeper Petr Cech and captain John Terry both suffered season-ending injuries, joining the list of Chelsea's walking wounded that already included playmakers Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto'o.
Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel picked up yellow cards ruling them out of the second leg, which means both will likely feature in this contest as Mourinho - seeking a third Champions League trophy with as many teams after titles at FC Porto and Inter Milan - went public with his preference to chase Europe's biggest club trophy over England's.
"I can't decide by myself, that's a decision where I have to listen to the club," Mourinho said. "The fact the match is on Sunday puts the problem not in my hands, but the hands of the people who decide the game should be played on Sunday, not Saturday or Friday.
"We represent English football, we are the only English team in Europe."
Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah will be available, but Ramires was given a four-match ban for violent conduct by the FA after the midfielder took a swing at Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson.
Mourinho and assistant Rui Faria also are facing FA charges from that match - Mourinho for his withering post-match comments regarding the officiating and Faria for his touchline outburst after Cesar Azpilicueta was called for the penalty that led to Chelsea's defeat.
While Chelsea have dominated the back pages, Liverpool (25-5-5) are barnstorming toward their first league title since winning the First Division in 1990. The irrepressible Reds have reeled off 11 straight victories - the longest Premier League win streak since Arsenal's 14-game run from Feb. 10-Aug. 18, 2002 - and need seven points to claim the trophy.
There were some nervy moments in last Sunday's 3-2 win at Norwich City as Raheem Sterling had a brace around an assist on Luis Suarez's 30th goal of the campaign, but Liverpool again proved themselves resolute.
"My players give me everything. It's 11 wins now and it's an incredible achievement," manager Brendan Rodgers said. "We showed everything again. The quality of our play, positioning and movement in the first half was exceptional. In the second half - when we had to show character, determination and resilience - we had it in bundles."
Suarez is one goal shy of joining Alan Shearer (1995-96) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2007-08) as the only players to score 31 in a season since the Premier League went to a 38-match schedule - an impressive feat considering the Uruguayan has played only 30 matches due to his suspension for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in last season's corresponding fixture.
Chelsea scrambled to a 2-1 victory in December as Hazard and Eto'o negated Martin Skrtel's early marker.
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