By Vayam Lahoti
The winners of the transfer window take on arguably the runners-up of the same as Chelsea look to welcome reigning champions, Liverpool, to Stamford Bridge in what could potentially turn out to be a titanic battle between two clubs whose rivalry appears to have been reborn in the past few months. It’s more about just three points this weekend. Can Chelsea get the better of the ones they’re looking to dethrone?
FRANK-LY SPEAKING WITH JURGEN
The rising tensions between the two head-coaches make this tie even more mouth-watering. Despite the fact that they have immense respect for one another, there’s been no love lost between Frank Lampard and Jurgen Klopp. The latter’s subtle dig this week, aimed essentially at the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, didn’t seem to call for a truce to say the least. There were raging tempers in the reverse fixture last season when a few members of the Liverpool bench provoked Frank, which led to an exchange of words at the touchline. For the managers, this clash is as much about getting the better of their managerial counterpart as it is about the victory. It won’t really come off as a surprise if the touchline sees different action altogether again.
CHELSEA: Ziyech(knee), Chilwell(heel), Silva(lack of match fitness), Pulisic(hamstring), Gilmour(knee, long-term) (ALL RULED OUT)
LIVERPOOL: Oxlade-Chamberlain(knee), Shaqiri(muscle, doubtful) (ALL RULED OUT)
Timo Werner has been passed match-fit after easing past a dead leg he suffered from last weekend at Brighton. Klopp hinted in his pre-match press conference that new Liverpool recruit Thiago Alcantara could make a shock debut at the Bridge. Kostas Tsimikas has returned to training after completing a mandatory self-isolation period following contracting the coronavirus; he could be involved. It remains to be seen, however, if this tie comes too soon for Diogo Jota, recently signed by Liverpool from Wolves.
Neither team has any players facing suspension this gameweek. Mateo Kovacic could potentially make his way back into the starting XI having served his one-match ban after getting sent-off in the FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley in August.
- Predicted Line-ups
After getting past Brighton in their first game, this is the sort of fixture whose result will show how Chelsea will fare in the league this season. It has been proven undisputedly that the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City are not going to drop too many points over the course of the season. Chelsea, who are still really playing catch-up to the formidable duo need to make the most of their games against the two sides who have won the Premier League on each of the last three occasions amongst them. Moreover, overcoming arguably the best and most balanced team in the world would give the Chelsea dressing room a massive lift. To be the best, at some point, you have to beat the best. It’s up for grabs at the Bridge and one’d think that Lampard would’ve had one eye on this heavyweight clash while preparing his troops for Brighton.
If you witnessed Timo Werner’s face light up in his post-match interview against Brighton on being asked whether he’ll be fit for the Liverpool game or not, you knew he was geared up for the prospect of facing The Reds and arguably the best centre-half in the world currently in Virgil Van Dijk. Though a number of their new additions this fall are out injured, the new and exciting additions such as Kai Havertz and Timo Werner can give England a glimpse of what is coming by leading from the front. Though both the sides’ defensive frailties took away from their respective attacking performances in the opening weekend, it will potentially be an end-to-end game with goals galore and one for the neutrals to watch for sure. Though all three of Liverpool’s additions this term are not likely to start, it will give valuable insight into how Liverpool have prepared themselves for retaining the title this season and if the players retain the same levels of hunger as they’ve had for the last two seasons. The Reds have looked sub-par defensively ever since been crowned champions in June; most recently in their narrow 4-3 victory against newly-promoted Leeds on opening day. However, we can see the likes of Thiago make brief cameos at the Bridge against a midfield pivot that struggled at The Amex. Hence, one will be curious to see what Lampard has got in his locker to outwit Klopp.
To review, this game has got all the elements of being an absolute cracker. Very little to separate them in this current moment. Leaky defences put to the test against formidable attacks. The tie has goals written all over it. Either way the result goes, it’d have a deeper psychological impact on the young guns at Chelsea. It can help them reach cloud nine or bring their morale down. A game against a side proven on the biggest stages in European football this early can really be evidence to whether Chelsea have it in them to challenge for the league or not. Whether Liverpool go all-out-attack or adopt a rather conservative approach for what will surely a difficult away fixture remains to be seen, but Klopp will make sure Liverpool stick to their philosophy, which is playing ‘heavy metal football’.