Both sides go head to head early in the season looking to set a foothold on the rest of the competition. Liverpool and Chelsea have won both of their opening games quite comfortably and this will prove to be a stern test for their title aspirations.
Both Sides Look to Prove Title Credentials
Both Sides Unbeaten in Opening Two Fixtures
Both teams have started the season in devastating form. Liverpool has comfortably beaten Norwich and Burnley while Chelsea has continued their Champions League winning form with wins over Crystal Palace and Arsenal. Someone’s perfect record has to end at Anfield and it’s sure to be a fiercely contested match. We take a look at the key battles that could decide the winner.
The Key Battles
Lukaku vs Van Dijk/Matip
Romelu Lukaku got off to the best start possible in his second Chelsea debut. The Belgian bullied Pablo Mari to score his 114th Premier League goal (overtaking Ian Wright and moving up to 20th in all-time goalscorers). Unlike other Chelsea signings upfront, Lukaku has experience in the League and the physical tools to deal with the increased physicality. He should flourish as Chelsea’s main man but on Saturday he faces one of his toughest tests. In previous games vs Liverpool, Lukaku has looked to target either Dejan Lovren or Joe Gomez but with neither of them playing, Lukaku may struggle against defenders who can hold their own with him physically.
Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip are one of the best centre-back partnerships in the world. Matip may not be available as much as he should be, but he has only lost one game he’s started since 2019. Van Dijk and Matip have both returned from serious injuries this year but have looked unbreakable so far. The pairing also got a taster of the strength Lukaku brings against Burnley, where they were being pulled and pushed everywhere. They dealt with the onslaught well and their clean sheet record is still intact but they face their biggest test this weekend. It’s time for them to show Liverpool is still the team to beat when fit.
Rudiger vs Salah
Antonio Rudiger has been one of the best defenders in Europe over the past few months. He has shone in Thomas Tuchel’s back three and helped Chelsea to their second Champions League win. Rudiger plays on the left of the three so has to cover for the forward-thinking Marcos Alonso often. It’s a role he’s relished, dealing with the likes of Vinicius Junior and Riyad Mahrez brilliantly. He’s started the season relatively untested and Chelsea is yet to concede.
Mohamed Salah broke records on the season’s opening day by becoming the first player to score in 5 consecutive opening days. The Egyptian also looked threatening against Burnley but failed to score. His understanding with Harvey Elliott on the right is really encouraging and while Elliott will likely not start such a big clash, he could be an option from the bench if The Reds need a goal. Instead of looking to take on Rudiger, Salah should look to link up with the likes of Elliott and Diogo Jota to break through Chelsea’s defence.
Klopp Vs Tuchel
Since Thomas Tuchel has arrived at Chelsea, he has favored a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formation. The amount of attacking advantages this gives Chelsea means it’s often the best choice for opposing managers to match The Blues’ shape. Real Madrid did it in May and there were rumors Arsenal were planning to do the same before Ben White tested positive for COVID-19. Zinedine Zidane‘s side was unsuccessful but Liverpool has tools more suited to matching Chelsea than Real Madrid did and it’s a real option for Jurgen Klopp.
The switch to 3 at the back could be done in multiple ways. New signing Ibrahima Konate could be handed his debut on the right of the back three, which is the position he played at RB Leipzig. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson could be the wing-backs and the usual front three could still start together upfront. Fabinho and Jordan Henderson would partner with each other in midfield. With Kostas Tsimikas having started the season so brightly, there is another option. To fit the returning Robertson and the inform Tsimikas in his team together, Klopp could field Robertson on the left of the back three and Tsimikas at Wing back. Such a huge tactical switch will catch Chelsea by surprise and could confuse their players.
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