Liverpool will attempt to surmount the last major obstacle barring their path to a first league title since 1990 when they welcome third-place Chelsea to Anfield on Sunday.
Victory for Brendan Rodgers’s side would eliminate Chelsea from the title race and leave Liverpool needing just four points from their final two games against Crystal Palace and Newcastle United to claim the crown.
Should Liverpool win and City lose their game at Palace later on Sunday, however, the Merseyside club could secure the Premier League trophy as early as next weekend.
With Liverpool on a run of 11 straight wins and the title now in sight, these are heady days at Anfield, and Rodgers has dismissed fears that his players might suddenly succumb to the pressure of expectation.
“I think everyone is talking about pressure, but that is Manchester City or Chelsea, when you spend that sort of money and expect to win the league,” said the Liverpool manager.
“I don’t think there is pressure on ourselves, only from what we have within. Look at Tottenham — you spend over Â£100-odd million ($169 million, 121 million euros) you’d expect to be challenging for the league.
“We will do the best we possibly can. At this moment in time we have been absolutely outstanding.”
Chelsea’s shock 2-1 loss at home to Sunderland last weekend has left their title challenge hanging by a thread, prompting manager Jose Mourinho to shift his focus to the Champions League.
His side drew 0-0 at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final earlier this week and Mourinho created a storm afterwards by claiming that he would field a second-string team at Liverpool to preserve his players for next week’s return leg.
Rodgers, however, played down the threat, saying: “Whatever team they put out will have cost more than ours and will be more experienced.”
Chelsea will definitely be without injured quartet Petr Cech, John Terry, Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o, while Ramires starts a four-game ban for lashing out at Sebastian Larsson in the loss to Sunderland.
Cup-tied in the Champions League, Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are both expected to feature, while Frank Lampard and John Mikel Obi, who will miss the second leg of the Atletico tie through suspension, are also in line to play.
– Sturridge concern for Liverpool –
Mourinho kept his cards close to his chest in his pre-game media conference, telling reporters: “You wait for Sunday, and Sunday you know our team.
“We are going to try to win. That’s the simple and objective answer. Nobody goes to a game to lose.”
For Liverpool, Jordan Henderson will not feature as he serves the second game of a three-match ban, while on-loan Chelsea winger Victor Moses is ineligible to play against his parent club.
Rodgers’s biggest selection issue concerns striker Daniel Sturridge, who sat out last weekend’s 3-2 win at Norwich City with a hamstring injury, but he is expected to be fit to start on Sunday.
“We’ll give it another 24 hours,” Rodgers said on Friday. “He’s working hard with the medical team, so we shall see. If he’s not fit, we’ve coped before; we’ve managed before without a number of players.”
Liverpool have scored 38 goals during their 11-game winning streak and need only four more to bring up a century in the league this season.
Their last three victories have all been by a one-goal margin, however, and last weekend’s success at Norwich was a nail-biting affair.
Another victory will equal Liverpool’s top-flight record for successive wins of 12, which was set in October 1990.
Chelsea’s domestic form has deserted them at just the wrong time, with three defeats in their last six league games meaning they have taken only nine points from a possible 18.
They are the last side to have beaten Liverpool though — 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on December 29 — and can close to within two points of the leaders if they prevail.