Jack Hallows believes that while Liverpool were second best in the Carabao Cup fixture against Chelsea, it won’t matter at Anfield this evening.
Liverpool’s 2-1 loss to Chelsea at Anfield on Wednesday night is one of those weird results where, as much as it annoys me that we’ve lost, I actually don’t really care that much.
Sure, our 100% record to start the season has gone now but if I had to pick one of the two competitions to beat Chelsea in – the Premier League or the Carabao Cup – you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m picking the Premier League every damn time.
There was some talk on social media post-match of being worried ahead of the visit to Stamford Bridge this weekend but I’m not really sure why.
Okay, yes, we lost to the same opposition we’ll be playing on Saturday but when you look at the bigger picture, we lost to the same opposition in name only.
Not only will the two XIs that we can expect to take to the Stamford Bridge pitch in the upcoming league game be starkly different to those that started the cup fixture, we can probably also expect to see a real shift in tactical outlook from both managers.
Out of the eleven players that Jürgen Klopp chose to start at Anfield last night, I expect only Sadio Mané and one of James Milner/Naby Keïta to feature in the starting XI on Saturday, while the likes of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk are all certainties to be brought back in.
While the Reds still created chances against Sarri’s men – Daniel Sturridge, in particular, enjoying and enduring a busy evening – it was at the other end of the pitch that the notable difference between our starting XI and our ‘back-ups’ lies.
Simon Mignolet did okay but is not and never has been Alisson Becker, while Nathaniel Clyne and Matip provided steady at best alternatives to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez.
It was on the left-hand side that we really saw a drop off though.
Dejan Lovren featured in a competitive fixture for the first time since July and as expected of a man coming back from injury, looked horrendously off the pace while Alberto Moreno provided a timely reminder of why Andrew Robertson is a must have in Klopp’s regular backline.
The Spaniard was bullied by Victor Moses throughout and it was telling that not only did Hazard make a mockery of the Spaniard for the eventual winner, the Belgian actually took it upon himself to switch wings so he could specifically run at Moreno, knowing the opportunity to beat his man would be more likely to arise on that side.
Of course, Hazard is one of the Premier League’s elite forwards and any defender is going to have a tough time trying to nullify him when he’s on fire but Moreno looked beaten before he’d even begun to try.
When Hazard and the rest of the Chelsea attack take to the field on Saturday, they will be faced by a completely different challenge.
The presence of Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson on the left hand side of Liverpool’s defence has completely transformed the Reds’ backline and the addition of Alisson Becker has only served to further strengthen the wall that is now Klopp’s first choice defence.
The impact of the trio is perhaps most evident when you come across to the right hand side and see that 19-year old Trent Alexander-Arnold and 21-year old Joe Gomez have both been outperforming their ages superbly since January of this calendar year.
Where Liverpool controlled the game before a pair of previously habitual defensive lapses let them down on Wednesday, you can be sure that there will be no such occurrence when the two teams face up again on Saturday.
With Chelsea set to be the home side on Saturday, you can also bet that Sarri’s men will come out looking to attack and go for the jugular. This will, of course, mean the Reds’ defence and midfield will have to be on point against a highly talented Blues attack but it could potentially play into Liverpool’s hands.
Chelsea will play a high line as they look to smother the Reds which will be music to the ears of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané who are perhaps the best counter-attacking duo in the entire league.
All eyes will be on Salah in particular as the Egyptian will likely play from the right, bringing him face to face with Marcos Alonso and David Luiz – a pairing who, while good going forwards, can leave a lot to be desired when defending, especially in one-on-one situations.
It’s never nice to lose a game of football, no matter the circumstances or the competition but the midweek loss to Chelsea shouldn’t incite panic among Liverpool supporters.
There is a perfectly good chance for revenge on the immediate horizon for Klopp’s men and if our Redmen go to Stamford Bridge and make it seven from seven in the league, I’ll be more than happy with the way the last week has panned out.