Jamie Day discusses Liverpool’s Premier League encounter with Chelsea which kicks off 20:00 (BST) this evening.
What a difference a year makes. What a difference Jurgen Klopp makes. On our fifth matchday of the last campaign we travelled to Old Trafford and the performance was as tame, and timid and lifeless of any display I’d seen from a Liverpool side.
Even Roy Hodgson’s horrible class of 2010 had more of a go away at Old Trafford. It was a damage limitation exercise against one of the worst United teams in living memory. We went there with 7 points on the board and 2 goals under our belt. We may have 7 points on the board today, but the 9 goals scored (not even counting the 5 against Burton or 4 against Barcelona) should fill us with much much more optimism.
We travel to Stamford Bridge for our fourth away fixture from five league games; fresh from blowing away the champions 4-1 in a performance that signifies everything Jurgen Klopp has brought to Anfield. The trademarks of the many highlights he’s already provided us with. The unrelenting (and extremely intricate and well thought out) pressing that has been evident throughout great victories where Liverpool have been anything but tame, timid or lifeless.
This blueprint is how Liverpool will have to follow if they are to emerge from West London with the 3 points; the same formula used away at the Etihad, away at the Emirates, away at Stamford Bridge at home to Man United.
The tone for those performances were often set by Roberto Firmino, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start ahead of Daniel Sturridge on Friday. Gary Cahill was caught in possession for Swansea’s second goal in the Blues’ last game, and David Luiz (who is likely to start in place of the injured John Terry) is infamous for the risks he takes in possession.
If Firmino starts, don’t be surprised if Liverpool get a few chances from his dispossessing of either Cahill or Luiz. Chelsea crumbled after conceding the equaliser against Swansea, which could suggest a mental fragility still hanging over the club from last season’s horrific campaign.
The player who starts up front, whether that be Firmino or Sturridge will need to continue the clever movement we’ve seen in recent weeks. Sturridge was excellent at doing this against Leicester, and in unlikely fashion had one of the best games I’ve seen him have in his 3 and a half years at Anfield without actually scoring, which is perhaps another indication of the influence of Jurgen Klopp.
The way he dragged Morgan and Huth out of position for the first 3 goals on Saturday was sensational, and the sort of movement we haven’t really seen from the striker. It’s something Firmino has done repeatedly when used in that role and we can do that again against Chelsea the rewards could be massive for everyone around him.
The space created will need to be exploited by the two wingers, one of which being Mane, the other being either Firmino or Coutinho. The midfield 3 of Lallana, Wijnaldum and Henderson will need to make sure we get numbers forward to really trouble Chelsea.
In Kante and Matic the Blues have the two best defensive midfielders in the league, with Matic adopting a role further forward since Antonio Conte came in. If we can overrun the two of them we could cause havoc in and around the centre of the pitch.
It’ll be a test for our centre backs, Matip and Lovren to deal with the threat Chelsea pose in the air. They’re very strong from set pieces which traditionally have been a worry for us. We all know Chelsea have strengths going forward, and as much as I dislike the two, there’s no denying the quality of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.
Joel Matip has had an excellent start to his Liverpool career, and if he can remain cool in the face of Costa when he tries to rattle him, as he managed to do against Skrtel 18 months ago, then he could have the tools to deal with the Chelsea striker. In Nathaniel Clyne, Eden Hazard will come up against the best right back in English football so if Clyne is on top of his game then we can go into that battle with Chelsea’s forward line with confidence.
That’s what Klopp’s restored, that confidence. This season we’re going to be a team who let the opposition worry about us as opposed to us obsessing over how we deal with their key men.
I think if we can almost drag Chelsea down to our level, so to speak, and just turn the game into chaos much like we did against Arsenal, then we will win. If we can force Chelsea to go toe to toe with us then they’ll struggle to deal with the tornado of movement caused by our front 6 going forward.
Predicted XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Mane, Firmino, Coutinho. Chelsea 2-3 Liverpool (Mane x2, Coutinho)
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