Liverpool take on Chelsea tomorrow night a week ahead of their Europa League final against Sevilla in Basel. Jürgen Klopp downplayed suggestions that he would be fielding a weakened side to rest players ahead of next week’s big game. He went so far as to say he knows no game bigger than Liverpool and Chelsea. This attitude should suggest that the German will be treating the encounter as a way to prepare for what is to come at St. Jakub Park. In keeping with the strange narrative of the 2015/2016 season it seems fitting that Liverpool and Chelsea would both go into a Premier League clash with nothing to play for.
While the domestic season may be over for both sides that doesn’t mean there will be a shortage of attacking football or intensity. Chelsea showed last week against Tottenham that they revel in spoiling the party. I wouldn’t put it past the Blues to do their utmost to interrupt the swagger in the Liverpool camp ahead of Liverpool’s first European final in just under a decade.
With Klopp saying outright that he won’t be disrespecting the enormity of a tie like Liverpool versus Chelsea we can expect as close to a full strength side as possible. He may rest Daniel Sturridge as has been his wont in recent weeks. While the Englishman may be frustrated by Klopp’s habit of resting him in big ties I find it somewhat refreshing. Under Brendan Rodgers there was less habitual rotation which may have aggravated Sturridge’s injury issues. As long as Sturridge is fit and firing for the Europa League final I will be happy.
While Champions League qualification via the league places may not be possible Klopp is very optimistic about how high up the table Liverpool can finish. In his pre-match conference he said,“Our league position isn’t fixed. It’s Chelsea, then WBA, then the final. Fifth is possible. We will try everything, for sure.” While a lot would have to happen from the teams above it’s this kind of optimism and never say die attitude that has endeared him to Liverpool fans.
Klopp is an all or nothing kind of manager. It may seem that many fans, myself included, have completely disregarded the Premier League and are solely focused on the Europa League. This is understandable as the reward from winning the final next week far surpasses winning the next two league games. He is unhappy with finishing sixth or seventh even if he is winning a European final.
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A strong side will be fielded against Chelsea tomorrow night, of that I am sure, how many players will also start against Sevilla next Wednesday is another story. Benteke is likely to start in what could be the end of his Liverpool career. The big Belgian scored at Stamford Bridge back in October in the early days of Klopp’s tenure. His appearance was also off the bench which should have been an early indication of what was to come.
Perhaps the lack of pressure in the tie will mean that it will sour and lack competition or maybe it will mean the two sides will play in a relaxed manner and brilliant football will be produced. I can’t be the only one hoping that Liverpool decide to play ‘Joe Allen football’ again. Jürgen, you know what to do.
Quotes from Mirror UK
Featured Image – This is Anfield