To say there’s a bit of animosity between Liverpool and Chelsea is an understatement. The two sides have clashed on and off the pitch frequently, especially since Chelsea’s rise to football prominence in the early 2000’s.
In a way, Diego Costa personifies this conflict. Liverpool tried—and failed—to land the aggressive striker off the pitch, ultimately losing out to Chelsea. Then he and Chelsea won the Premier League title the year after Liverpool came oh-so-close, adding insult to injury.
As a wind-up artist, Costa has a way of getting under opponent’s skin in a way that few others can. In this regard, he’s kind of perfect for Chelsea from a Liverpool perspective. Manager Jürgen Klopp is well aware of this fact, and will be relying on aggressive performances from Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip to shut Costa down.
“Being aggressive is important against Costa,” Klopp said. “If you are in a friendly game mood then you have no chance. He is a real warrior on the pitch. He uses his body all the time – that is his quality. World class.
However, Klopp knows that Chelsea can hurt Liverpool in many different ways, and that the Reds need to concentrate on far more than just the “warrior” striker.
“There will be hard challenges, but it is not about having a one-on-one fight the whole 90 minutes and then saying: ‘I took him out of the game’. Taking Diego out of the game makes sense but even then our players can create moments so there are a lot more things to do than only think about Diego Costa.”
Stopping Costa is one thing, figuring out how to break down a stingy Chelsea defense is another altogether. To walk away with maximum points on Friday night, Liverpool will need to figure out a way to do both.