As ever, Jack Hallows previews the weekend action by bringing you the key battles to expect when Liverpool visit Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool’s Premier League campaign thundered on last weekend with a routine 3-0 victory over Southampton at Anfield in a fixture that was all but over by half time.
The result meant Liverpool ended the weekend top of the table and the only side to have accrued all 18 points available so far this campaign.
Perhaps the biggest threat to their unbeaten league start awaits on the immediate horizon however, with a trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon the toughest test of this Liverpool team’s title credentials so far.
Chelsea boast a star studded line-up and despite questions over the true underlying mentality of a number of their players, the majority of their starting XI are Premier League title winners – some having done so on multiple occasions.
To come through this fixture unscathed, the Reds will have to put in a monumental team effort but there will also be a number of individual battles all over the field that the Reds will have to come out on top in to win.
Eden Hazard VS Trent Alexander-Arnold
Despite Nathaniel Clyne seeing his first action of the season in the Carabao Cup fixture mid-week, I fully expect Trent Alexander-Arnold to come back in to the starting line-up this weekend.
The 19-year old has pocketed some of the biggest stars in world football over the past 9 – 12 months, keeping Leroy Sane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar quiet in massive Champions League fixtures. It can definitely be argued though, that Hazard will provide the youngster his biggest challenge yet.
The Belgian has put the doubts that emerged over his future throughout the summer aside to remind everyone that he is undoubtedly, one of the Premier League’s elite talents so far this season, assisting two Premier League goals for team mates and scoring five himself.
He also gave Liverpool fans specifically a timely reminder of his powers during the midweek cup game, slaloming his way past Keïta, Fabinho and Alberto Moreno to smash home the winner five minutes from full time.
The Belgian does have a good record against Liverpool and while it’s predominantly been at Anfield where he performs better against the Reds, his form at Stamford Bridge so far this campaign has been impeccable, averaging a WhoScored rating of 9 in his three home fixtures.
If Liverpool can keep the Blues talismanic forward quiet then it’ll go a long way towards them coming out of the fixture on top but it’s going to take a monumental effort from Alexander-Arnold and his fellow Liverpool defenders to do so.
Marcos Alonso VS Mohamed Salah
Sticking on the same side of the pitch, Chelsea also have a full-back on who their chances of winning the game could heavily rest.
Despite Mohamed Salah struggling to find his best form this season, the Egyptian still has three Premier League goals and two assists this season, with his pace and overall attacking threat still striking fear into the hearts of opposition defenders.
While Alonso meanwhile has had a stellar season so far, it’s mostly been going forward where all his plaudits have come – the Spaniard has a goal and an incredible five assists in the Premier League so far this campaign.
Defensively though, he’s still suspect and paired with the lack of cover that Hazard gives down the left-hand side and the fact that David Luiz is the left sided centre half, it’s looking very likely that Salah will operate as the Reds’ main attacking outlet this weekend.
The Egyptian endured a tough return to Stamford Bridge last season, firing blanks in a 1-0 loss and receiving a yellow card for simulation, so you can bet the former Chelsea man will be fired up to use this fixture as an opportunity to explode back into form.
Alonso meanwhile will have to pick and choose his moments to commit himself a little more carefully when Chelsea go on the attack if the Blues are to keep Liverpool from having too much joy in their defensive third of the pitch.
Naby Keïta VS N’Golo Kanté
This is more of a hopeful one on my part because I’m desperate to see Naby Keïta start this fixture and go head to head with Kanté.
Neither player has particularly set the world alight this season, with Kanté having been played in a more advanced role than he’s used to and Keïta still adapting to his new surroundings but if both feature then you can bet your hat that both will be highly important to their respective sides.
The role Keïta plays for Liverpool means that he needs to be everywhere, hustling and harrying opposition players and carrying the ball when he gets on it.
Kanté on the other hand, we all know what he’s good at and we all know just how good he is at it so he really needs no explanation.
It’s no coincidence that both Leicester and Chelsea won the league title with the little Frenchman in their side and the Reds have only managed to put more than a solitary goal past the Blues on one occasion since he joined in 2016.
For the Reds to thrive at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, their midfield will have to look to bypass Kanté and spread the play to the wide attackers as quickly as possible in an effort to exploit the spaces left by Chelsea’s fullbacks.
Winning the midfield battle is a major part of winning any football match – especially for teams like Liverpool and Chelsea.
If Keïta plays and can get on top of Kanté early, it’ll be huge for the Reds chances of coming away victorious.