Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea was the disappointing result last March. The Reds’ XI that day shows just what an ‘upgrade’ we’ll see later today.
Thomas Tuchel managed Chelsea to a 1-0 win at Anfield last March. The Blues were the better team on the day and limited Liverpool to just one shot on target.
But the Chelsea boss doesn’t see a repeat this time around. He says Liverpool have had a clear ‘upgrade’ since then and that his team can’t hide from that.
“That’s the reality and we should not hide from it,” he said, per the Echo. “Liverpool with [Virgil] Van Dijk is a different Liverpool than without Van Dijk.
“It’s not only his isolated capacity and level of performance but also that he makes everyone around him feel more comfortable and be stronger.
“Together with [Joel] Matip, it is a huge upgrade to last March.”
So what exactly was the XI that day?
Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea
Liverpool lacked any of their key centre-backs that day, of course. Van Dijk, Matip and Gomez were all missing. Jordan Henderson was out, too, and the Reds had Fabinho in defence.
It meant their XI looked like this:
Alexander-Arnold – Fabinho – Kabak – Robertson
Thiago – Jones
Salah – Firmino – Mane
The obvious problems are down the middle. Fabinho is a competent centre-back but not an elite one. Gini Wijnaldum isn’t a great holding midfielder, which in turn put more defensive pressure on Thiago and Curtis Jones.
The result was a weaker-than-average centre-back pairing and a midfield that struggled to handle Chelsea. Liverpool, despite being at Anfield, just couldn’t control things.
Compare that to the lineup Klopp could put out today:
Alexander-Arnold – Matip – Van Dijk – Robertson
Henderson – Thiago
Salah – Jota/Firmino – Mane
You’ve got a world-class centre-back pairing that makes things easier on the midfield. Then you’ve also got Fabinho in that holding role, easing even more defensive pressure.
Henderson returns to marshall things and suddenly Liverpool’s control is back.
Tuchel is absolutely right. This is a major upgrade over Liverpool’s XI back in March. Such an upgrade, in fact, that we can almost disregard what happened back then.
The Reds finally have their best XI in hand and it should make all the difference.