LIVERPOOL VS. CHELSEA
| Saturday, August 28th |
Premier League | Anfield
5:30PM GMT/1:30PM EST
I’m sure it’s selective memory, but it feels like ages since such an important match took place in August. There’s no such thing as a title deciding match in the first month of the season, but this very much is as close as you get.
I should say that Chelsea, at this point, scare me more than Manchester City do. The thing about their star-studded attack, though, is that you can only put eleven players on the pitch at the same time, and I do reckon our eleven is better than their eleven. On their day. And I hope Anfield makes absolutely sure our eleven are each having their best day.
We know Romelu Lukaku. Don’t let his time at Manchester United fool you. This man is difficult for defenses to handle and, like Diogo Jota, he gets into dangerous positions and slots goals. A lot of goals. Chelsea might pair his trickery with someone like Timo Werner, who — while often caught offside — will exploit any errors in Liverpool’s line. But they have a lot of attacking options, and could also choose technical players to try to win the midfield.
And we should talk about N’Golo Kanté. Chelsea apparently have the best player in Europe in their midfield in Jorginho, but N’Golo Kanté (who has yet to play a full 90 minutes thus far) is the difference-maker. If he’s able to put his imprint on the match, we’re in trouble. If Liverpool can make Kanté’s job more graft than usual — and limit last season’s key player, Mason Mount — we might just have a real chance at laying a marker down.
The European Champions are probably bookies’ favorites for the league over us at the moment. Let’s prove them (and my mate, a Chelsea fan, who will be in Anfield for his birthday) wrong.
The fans at Anfield might just prove the difference between two very good sides. Get right into these, everyone.
Predicted Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Mané
This is the first time I’m predicting our “strongest” lineup since early 2020/21, and it feels great if I’m honest. Though if Naby Keïta starts and Thiago comes in as a substitute no one would be surprised. Keïta deserves the start, and the same is true with Diogo Jota. I’ve gone with Thiago, because Thiago is the type of player that you buy for these occasions.
Andy Robertson might not be fit yet, and after his last two performances I don’t think anyone thinks Kostas Tsimikas would shrink under this pressure. So for once I’m not bothered who plays there, as I think either would cause Chelsea problems — and both will be up for a battle, against each other if not against Chelsea, which is an excellent added level of competition.
There’s been a lot of chat about the likes of Lukaku vs. Virgil Van Dijk, but, based on pattern, Virgil’s partner is the more likely to be tested. I would not be surprised if the conversation after the match is Joël Matip vs. Lukaku rather than Virgil. Matip is slightly less physical than Virgil, but he reads the game well and defends well on the front foot. He also has a very good mate there to clean up any messes. I would wager that the battle in the center of defense is less blockbuster and more Matip-as-first-line-of-defense followed by Virgil-if-needed. And that makes me a lot calmer.
If we’re going to talk about Chelsea’s attacking choices, though, we need to talk about ours. I’ve tipped Bobby Firmino to start purely because linking up play might be more important against the likes of these, but Diogo Jota does love to slot in a goal. No one would be mad about either.
They have shiny new signings, but Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah are some of the best there is. Here we should have a very firm base of a first choice back five with Fabinho returning to the side — and then, much like Chelsea, a lot of attacking choices. Whoever starts in the front three should cause a lot of problems with that base behind them.
Harvey Elliot, who had the third-most touches (after Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold), the most pressures, and was involved in the top three passing combinations against Burnley, will want to have a go. Thiago will want his first start. Keita probably deserves to continue in the starting line-up. Each of these players should cause Chelsea problems.
We’re in a place with too many “correct” choices for the manager to make in this starting line-up. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few fellas. But it’s been a long time since Jürgen Klopp has had this type of struggles with a line-up. Long may it continue.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jurgen Klopp: “I expect a very difficult game for both teams. Both are really well organised. It will be a big fight. It’s a game I’d watch 100% if not involved - it’s a must-watch. Chelsea in a really good moment..”
Thomas Tuchel: “I’m not sure [Lukaku] has yet reached top level, maybe not, because he only has one game in his legs. But he will have a good match tomorrow, because he loves to play in these types of matches, he’s a tough competitor, and against strong opponents.”
Referee: Anthony Taylor Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn Fourth Official: Craig Pawson VAR: Chris Kavanagh Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis
Kickoff is set for 5:30PM GMT/1:30PM EST tomorrow. In the meantime, The Liverpool Offside team will keep you updated with all of the team news and match buildup as it becomes available, along with providing a matchday liveblog and post-match recaps and reaction. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account and have your say on the action as it happens.