5 battlefronts that will decide the winner between Liverpool and Chelsea.
Chelsea has been tipped to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool for the league this season. As expected of the UCL reigning champion, they will be hoping to replicate their European success in the league. Liverpool on the other hand, have been at the top for the last couple of years. If not for the injuries last season, they would have pushed further in the league and the champions league.
As they head into this crunch tie, another three points will set the tone for confidence for the fixtures ahead for either team. Anfield has always been a fortress for Liverpool and it will take spectacular effort for Tuchel’s men to steal a win. Below are the battlegrounds which will decide the game;
Klopp vs Tuchel
While Tuchel has stormed the league with His famous 3–4–3 system that has won several games including the second leg fixture against Liverpool last season, it is the unpredictability of the little tweaks that catches oppositions by surprise that has been the spice. Chelsea have players that are well adept to these tweaks whether be it James playing at the back three or at the right-hand side of the middle four or Chilwell and Alonso with the latter preferred for His attacking prowess. In the middle, the ever combatant Kante and Jorginho are every ready and are rotated depending on the tweaks.
Klopp on the other hand has been a menace to the league, He is no doubt, among the best two managers in England. His success with Liverpool has been built on His renowned gengen pressing with His forwards not allowing the opposition to build at the back. The midfielders have been versed at suffocating the middle canceling out the creative players of the oppositions which are mostly no 10 and 8. As good as this system is, it cannot work without top defenders who can defend one-on-one as highlighted when Liverpool lost Virgil Van Dijk, Matip, and, Gomez to injuries last season.
With the recent pre-season games and the last two EPL games, it seems Klopp will bring back the 4–2–1–3 with a no 10, a role Coutinho played before His transfer to Barcelona in 2018. The involvement of Elliot has shown the faith Klopp has in the system though He had hoped Shaqiri would fill this role. This battle can ultimately kill other contesting grounds and effectively kill the game off within the first 30 mins of the game as seen with Chelsea vs Arsenal. Klopp has the edge here with His recent mix styles but it is left to see how Tuchel would react to any change Klopp makes.
Matip, Van Dijk vs Lukaku
Part of why this fixture is a mouthwatering one is that many are eager to see the performance of Lukaku against the best defender in the league. Having returned from a long spell, Van Dijk seemed not to have lost His touch and Has been instrumental in keeping clean sheets with His trademark style of defending. They have faced each other a couple of times when Lukaku was with Everton and Manchester United with the Belgian admitting that He hates playing against the Dutchman. This leaves the battle to Matip who Lukaku would focus on thinking He can overpower. Matip has been renowned for His ability to read the game and make the right decision before committing. Klopp may want to bring in Konate who is equally strong as Lukaku on air and on the ball. This is an interesting battle as Lukaku would try to win headers or pin Liverpool center-backs like He did with Mari. It remains to be seen if the experienced pair can be dominated.
The battle of the full-backs
Both teams allow their fullbacks to roam forward and join the attack with the defensive midfielder dropping to make up at the back. Chelsea has had recent success in this area but cannot be compared with Liverpool who have had years of success built on their fullbacks in their champions league and league winning seasons respectively. Tracking each other will be the highlight of the game with Robertson pipped to come in for this crunch tie. We hardly see Tuchel’s fullbacks moving in to form an overload in the middle as seen with Liverpool’s fullbacks perfectly depicted with Trent’s assist to Mane for the second goal against Burnley but they stay very high at the far end of the pitch. However, the gap they leave behind can be capitalized on by Chelsea fullbacks who are equally fast in assuming vacant positions. In what seems to be a weakness to Liverpool last season due to the loss of their center backs, there was no enough coverage as their make-in-shift center-backs could not defend one -one as expected. It remains to be seen if Fabinho comes in to assist the center-backs in dealing with Lukaku and provide more bodies at the back.
Make no mistake, Liverpool has the upper hand here.
Rudiger vs Salah
Over their encounters, Salah has been rather quiet with the German defender tracking and isolating the Egyptian superstar. Klopp has a decision in choosing if Mane would play through the middle to allow for a double up on the German or an Elliot-like formation something close to what He did against Burnley where they couldn’t track Salah because of the on-rushing ball playing youngster. Salah would not want to blank this game week. Mane or Jota on the other side will have their hands full with coping with Azpilicueta but it seems Mane has always had His numbers with His tricky movement and pace.
The Midfield battle
Jorginho, Kante, and Kovacic have been excellent over the run of eight months. Much would be demanded of them coping with whoever Klopp fields in the middle. As expected, Klopp would go with experienced players in Henderson Milner, Thiago or Keita. Either of the pairing will hope to repeat what they did to Chelsea last season at Stanford bridge. If Elliot starts, then there is every possibility that Klopp wants to force Tuchel’s hands to attack him while He springs a surprise for him at the other end.
Jota vs Christensen
Many would not consider this a huge gap but it is. This is a huge mismatch that Jota would exploit with His clever runs and leaps in front and behind Defenders. A careful evaluation of His goals shows He has a knack for annoying defenders with His “theft header” goals. For Chelsea to match up, an introduction of an experienced defender like T. Silva may help in stopping the annoying attacker.
In conclusion, I see Liverpool beating Chelsea. They have the home advantage and they are well known for shocking teams in form with embarrassing scorelines.
Prediction? Liverpool 3: Chelsea 1.