It’s the first proper, major, titanic battle of the season, where two Premier League title hopefuls go head to head.
With 100% records for each in their opening two games, this game represents an early look at two viable league winners. The fact it’s Liverpool v Chelsea is huge, the added spice of Klopp vs. Tuchel is intriguing, but it is the battle of Virgil Van Dijk and Romelu Lukaku that will be the key battle.
When Lukaku left Manchester United, he was an often lumbering, sometimes dangerous & rare danger compared to that which Chelsea just re-signed. Antonio Conte is a master coach, and his influence on Lukaku’s game has created a real monster in modern football. With brilliant pace, unbelievable power, superb movement and a menacing frame, he will give most defenders a torrid ninety minutes this season.
After a long injury lay-off, Virgil Van Dijk returning to Liverpool’s first team has given the reds an assured solidity thus far. His long admired partnership with Joel Matip is flourishing once again, but in their two games they have not had to encounter anything like what Chelsea will bring Saturday evening. Virgil has the pace, power & positional play like no other defender in the league, perhaps even the world. He is able to play a high line with brilliant recovery pace & aerial dominance, he is also able to instruct all those around him and m is a gifted playmaker to overcome the on coming counter press. The attributes of Lukaku are a great match for Virgil, and this battle will be key to victory, and a good gauge of how far along in his recovery Virgil truly is.
With Chelsea perhaps squeezing up more to condense space in possession, their own in house solidity (gained in the second half of last season) may now evolve into zonal control and more attacking patterns of play. The opening two games for Chelsea indicate a more dominant approach, and it will be interesting to see whether Tuchel stays with this Saturday. With Marcos Alonso & Reece James operating in the wing back positions, he may look to stay with the pair, or alter his outside positions to regain some form of a safety net. The midfield will see N’golo Kante return to partner Jorginho, with Kai Havertz and likely Mason Mount up top. The defence and wing back roles will be the key arrears that will show Tuchel’s tactical intentions early on.
For Liverpool, the left hand side will likely see a return of Andy Robertson, with his energy and sheer effectiveness a must in this game. The attack will possibly see Bobby Firmino come in for Diogo Jota, with his pressing and movement a better fit for a more evenly divided possession game. The midfield is an area of question, with Fabinho surely in line for a start (after personal issues), and Henderson likely to add running on his right. The left will have Naby Keita starting, with a good run of games and an ability to break lines. His ability on the ball will be key to finding pockets between the lines.
Harvey Elliott will have to come out, but can offer much if needed later, and Thiago Alcantara probably needs a little more time to adjust to the new season. Diogo Jota will feel unlucky if he loses out, but offers an incredible goal threat from the bench.
The Klopp vs. Tuchel battle is drawing in fast, but my eyes will be firmly fixed on Virgil vs. Romelu, and the winner of that huge match up will probably see their side prevail as winners. Both teams have brilliant attacks and midfields, but I believe Liverpool’s superior back line and world class keeper will edge out Chelsea in a close tactical battle.
Pre match prediction
Liverpool 2 – 1 Chelsea