Chelsea welcome Liverpool to Stamford Bridge on Saturday for the second meeting of the two clubs within three days. During the week, the Blues came from behind to win at Anfield, which secured their passage to the fourth round of the Carabao Cup. Although both teams opted to rest players, stronger line-ups were selected than many expected. It was taken seriously by both managers and the final result provided a mental victory for Maurizio Sarri. The Reds had the better chances, but it was the visitors that prevailed.
It has been an impressive start to the season for Chelsea considering the uncertainty that clouded Stamford Bridge during the summer. Sarri has arrived and instantly improved fortunes on the pitch with a more entertaining brand of football. The style shift has also brought out the best in Eden Hazard, who was the undoubted star of the show on Wednesday night with a superb individual effort. They weren’t expected to be title contenders, but if they win on Saturday, they have to be taken seriously.
Until Wednesday, Liverpool looked unstoppable under Jurgen Klopp. Their home defeat to Chelsea in the Carabao Cup has the potential to dent their confidence as they arrive at Stamford Bridge. Although a weaker team was selected, they had the chances to win and didn’t take them. Opposition teams will now believe that this Reds’ team is beatable. It is important that they return to winning ways on Saturday as successive defeats to a rival would be difficult to recover from. They are the only Premier League team with a 100% record and they will want to maintain that.
- Their failure to beat Chelsea on Wednesday meant that Liverpool haven’t registered a home victory against the Blues since 2012.
- In fact, Liverpool have only won two of the last 15 meetings between the two clubs.
There were concerns that Eden Hazard wouldn’t be at the club at the beginning of this season. His performances dropped last season under Antonio Conte and the team’s failure to qualify for the Champions League left them vulnerable. However, Maurizio Sarri made it clear that he wanted the Belgian international to remain at the club and the board granted that wish. For a long time, the attacker has been talked about as a world-class player, but he hasn’t been able to put up the attacking numbers to back that up. That looks set to change under the new Italian coach. Hazard has been given license to roam in the final third and it is clear he is taking up more threatening positions. On Wednesday, he scored an incredible goal as he beat two Liverpool players before firing past Simon Mignolet. He will be the danger once again on Saturday.
There have been plenty of debates on social media regarding the best player in the Premier League. The excellent stat to the season from Hazard has led to many suggesting that the Belgian is the best in the league. However, they are quickly forgetting the record-breaking season that Mohamed Salah had during his debut campaign at Anfield in which he scored 32 league goals. It has been a slower start to the season and his performance levels have been lower than usual, but he has still contributed three goals and an assist. If that is his contribution playing poorly in the eyes of many, an upturn should be expected. This is a big occasion against his former club and the Egyptian will be keen to make an impact.
Andreas Christensen has a knock, but his performance on Wednesday means that he would have been unlikely to start anyway. Antonio Rudiger and Pedro are both doubts for the home side. Alvaro Morata’s lack of impact during midweek should see Olivier Giroud selected to lead the line.
Virgil van Dijk is a slight doubt with a bruised rib that saw him withdrawn early last weekend. Adam Lallana and Divock Origi are a week away from a return, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains on the long-term injury list.
Both teams will select a full-strength side as they look to set an early marker in the title race. Chelsea have the mental advantage due to their success in this fixture during recent seasons. It is also being contested at Stamford Bridge, which should give them confidence. That said, Liverpool don’t alter their style of play depending on where the match is being played and they will pose a difficult test for the home side. It should be a great watch for the neutral with goals at both ends. A case could be made for either team winning, therefore an entertaining score draw could be the likely result.
Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool