Stoke manager Mark Hughes feels Chelsea’s resolute approach gives them the edge on Liverpool in the Premier League title race.
The Potters face probably the most difficult festive fixtures of any Premier League team as they travel to Anfield to take on second-placed Liverpool on Tuesday before making the trip to Stamford Bridge to play leaders Chelsea on December 31.
Hughes will get to witness first hand the title credentials of both teams in the coming week but ahead of the matches the former Chelsea striker thinks his old club’s knack of not conceding many goals gives them the advantage.
Chelsea, who head into Christmas with a six-point lead at the top, have let in just 11 goals so far while Liverpool, the division’s leading scorers, have conceded 20 times – including three at Arsenal on the opening day and four in a recent defeat at Bournemouth.
“That could be the difference come the end of the season,” said Hughes. “Chelsea look incredibly strong and resolute and they have a set way of playing which makes them hard to break down, whereas Liverpool maybe aren’t quite as tight and seem to concede more goals.
“Chelsea have players in their squad who have been there and done it so it will be interesting to see if Liverpool can maintain their challenge right up until the end of the season.
“(Liverpool boss) Jurgen (Klopp) seems to have given them the belief they can and it seems a really positive club again. People will expect them to be in and around the top few places come the end of the season so it will be interesting to see where they finish.
“Whether or not they can win it, we’ll see. But they have the potential to win it.”
Stoke go into the games without a win in three matches but Hughes is encouraged by his side’s results last season, when the Potters won 1-0 at Anfield in the League Cup and drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.
“We are under no illusions as to how good they both are and how difficult the matches will be for us, but we have to go into the games with real belief,” said Hughes. “We had that last season and we will give it a go this time around, too.
“Not many people are thinking we have a chance of gaining positive results but that certainly isn’t the case within our camp.
“Of course they have players who can hurt us, but we have players who can hurt them too. We went to Liverpool last year and beat them and we also got our first point at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League so we know we can go to these places and be positive.”