Big matches come thick and fast in the Premier League and it has taken just one game week for this season to deliver its first marquee clash. Liverpool travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon to continue their attack of the title. While Jurgen Klopp does not agree that he has a rivalry brewing with Frank Lampard, Liverpool fans will relish this occasion. Especially since Lampard was heard trying to teach the Reds’ bench a lesson in humility a few months back. Especially since Jurgen Klopp himself has called out Chelsea’s transfer spending this season and how Liverpool will not be matching it. In the same video, he also pointed that all of Blues’ new signings will need to feel settled in England and in their team before they start performing to their potential.
Indeed, with six new signings – all clearly for the first team, Frank Lampard has a tough task of making all of them settled in the squad and getting them to perform together. With several of them injured or unfit, his task is that much more difficult. As it was clear in Chelsea’ first game against Brighton on Monday night, the Blues were not yet going full-steam. There was a tentativeness in their game, that allowed Brighton to seemingly dominate large periods during the game. However, when they did get opportunities, Chelsea were able to clinically capitalize on them, in the end winning comfortably. Against an in-form Liverpool attack, the Blues will need to be on the top of their game, however.
At the time of writing this, Liverpool fans are celebrating the signing of Thiago Alcantara, who will definitely give a boost to their midfield. However, as Klopp himself pointed out, it will take some time for Thiago to get fit and settle in the team before he starts ruling the midfield. That means that Liverpool will head to London with their long-established first XI. That would have comforted the hearts of Reds fans in the past but given their team’s defensive performance against Leeds United at Anfield last Saturday, it might give them a few jitters now. Liverpool, who dominated possession against most sides last season, had lesser possession than the Championship title winners. The defence that is known to make it difficult for opponents to shoot or score, handed out three easy goals. But they had Mohammed Salah to save them with a first-day hat trick. One can be assured that Klopp will have addressed some of those defensive behaviors in training. The fans will hope that those training sessions will help the Reds beat the hosts, who are very likely to be one of the key rivals in their defence of the title.
- In 56 Premier League games between the two sides, the two sides are evenly matched. Chelsea have won 20 and lost 22. Of their 20 wins, 14 have been at Stamford Bridge, while Liverpool have won 7 times at the Bridge. The Reds have scored two more goals against Chelsea in all their Premier League encounters, than the 69 that the Blues have scored against them.
- However, recent form does favor the Champions. Chelsea have lost each of their last three Premier League meetings with Liverpool. Only once before have they lost more in a row against the Reds in the competition (4 times between November 2010 and May 2012).
- Chelsea do like to play their best football against the reigning champions. Only Liverpool themselves (22) have won more Premier League matches against the reigning champions than Chelsea (15 – same as Man Utd). The Blues are unbeaten in their last 13 home league games against the previous season’s title-winning side (W7 D6), winning each of the last three.
- Giving an indication of their recent domination, this will be Liverpool’s first Premier League game against a side starting the day above them in the league table (excluding game week 1) since October 2018.
- Liverpool need to fix their leaky defence if they intend to get anything out of this game. Since their title win was confirmed in June, the Reds have conceded 15 goals in eight Premier League games (W5 D1 L2) – they had previously taken 23 games to concede 15 goals.
While Frank Lampard might be constrained in his selection elsewhere and will not be able to field his latest acquisitions, he did start with Timo Werner against Brighton and he has confirmed that Werner has recovered from his dead leg injury and should be starting on Sunday. He was the primary attacking outlet for the Blues against Brighton – accounting for 50% of their shots, albeit with only one on target. However, with 40 touches (27 in Opp half, 19 in final third, 7 in penalty area), he was clearly a threat. He indicated this by earning the penalty, which was Chelsea’s first goal and was completely against the flow of the game at that time. With 5 shots and 1 chance created, he did convert those touches into attacking actions but did not score or assist a goal. He would certainly want to rectify that against the Champions at home.
Virgil van Djik
Immediately after Virgil van Djik’s error had handed an easy goal to Patrick Bamford in Liverpool’s last game (vs Leeds United), a banter stat was put out. No outfield player has made more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than VVD (3 errors leading to goals) since the start of 2018-19 season. It sounds shocking, especially when a lot of pundits and fans think of him as the best defender in the Premier League. However, that stat was misleading and incomplete. Not only did it not name several other players that have 3 errors leading to goals in the same time, it also did not provide context of the time that VVD has played for. He has made those three errors in close to 6900 minutes of league football. That is one error in 2300 minutes. And he has already committed that this season. He will want to rectify that on Sunday with a strong defensive performance. An alert VVD, along with his aerial prowess both in defence and attack is going to pose problem for Werner and co. to beat on Sunday.
For the Blues, many of their new acquisitions are not yet available. While Lampard confirmed that Werner will be available, he also indicated that Chilwell, Ziyech, and Thiago Silva are unavailable. Christian Pulisic will also not be ready for the game. The likely lineup for the Blues is likely to be Kepa; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger; James, Kante, Kovacic, Alonso; Havertz, Werner, Mount.
For Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp talked of the challenging season where fixture congestion is likely to last the entire season. He is unlikely to rotate much for this fixture however. Only absentees are likely to be Oxlade-Chamberlain (out with injury), Shaqiri (still unfit) and newcomers Tsimikas and Thiago Alcantara (not ready yet). The likely lineup for Liverpool could be – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Henderson; Mane, Firmino, Salah.
Given Liverpool’s leaky defensive form against Leeds United and Chelsea’s measured but effective performance against Brighton in game week 1, we can expect a much closer clash on Sunday than the 5-3 loss that the Reds handed to the Blues towards the end of last season at Anfield. This game might just end level.
Chelsea 2 – 2 Liverpool