Premier League leaders Liverpool will take on Chelsea for the second time this week in an early-season clash between two title contenders at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool’s 100 percent record will be under threat when they take on Chelsea in matchweek seven of the 2018-19 Premier League on Saturday.
Liverpool are off to a flying start to the new season and find themselves perched at the top of the standings, having won each of their six games so far. Their last league game ended in a resounding 3-0 victory over Southampton. However, there was a blip earlier this week, when they crashed out of the Carabao Cup, courtesy of a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.
Manager Jurgen Klopp and his team will be out for revenge against the Blues following the midweek loss as they look to strengthen their hold at the top of the table.
Chelsea, on the other hand, dropped points for the first time this season when they were held to a goalless draw by local rivals West Ham United last Sunday. Following the result, they find themselves in the third spot in the table, two points below their Saturday’s opponents.
Maurizio Sarri’s men will go into the game high on confidence, having beaten the Reds only three days ago in the cup tie. And a victory on Saturday would further enhance their credentials as a serious title contender in the Italian manager’s debut campaign.
Team News & Tactics
There is a boost for the Blues heading into the game with Andreas Christensen fit again after recovering from a stomach bug. Pedro, Antonio Rudiger and Roben Loftus-Cheek have all returned to training, but will be assessed close to the game to determine their availability. Marco van Ginkel remains a long-term absentee.
Having sat out of the cup game earlier this week, world’s most expensive goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga will resume duties under the crossbar for the home team. Cesar Azpilicueta will continue to the man the right-side of the defence, while Marcos Alonso will return in place of Emerson Palmieri, despite the latter having scored on Wednesday.
David Luiz will also be recalled in the heart of the defence for Chelsea, with the fit-again Rudiger also expected to feature. The defence has been a bit of a problem for the Blues this season and going up against a fearsome attack that plundered 91 goals between them last season will be a huge challenge.
Summer signing Jorginho hasn’t wasted any time in establishing himself as the heartbeat of this Chelsea outfit under Sarri and is a guaranteed starter at the base of the midfield. N’Golo Kante will reclaim his starting berth and might find himself curbing his forward forays to disrupt the services from the middle for the Reds’ front three. Mateo Kovacic will occupy the third midfield slot.
Brazilian winger Willian should feature out on the right-flank of the attacking trident ahead of Pedro, while Eden Hazard is a definite starter on the opposite side, after his heroics in the midweek. Former Arsenal man Olivier Giroud will come in for Alvaro Morata to lead the line.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Willian, Giroud, Hazard;
Defensive mainstay Virgil van Dijk remains a major doubt for Liverpool, having been taken off with a rib injury against Southampton last weekend. However, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum are fit again and ready for action, after missing out during the midweek.
Divock Origi and Adam Lallana have also recovered from their injuries and are back in training, but are unlikely to be rushed back into action by Klopp. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains a long-term absentee for the Reds.
Alisson Becker will return between the sticks for Liverpool’s trip to West London, after having been rested for the midweek fixture. Alexander-Arnold will also walk into the starting XI, along with Andrew Robertson at the expense of Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno. Going up against an in-form Hazard will be a huge test for the young right-back.
With Van Dijk still not fit, Joel Matip is expected to continue in the centre of the backline for the Merseysiders. Dejan Lovren, who made a comeback in the midweek encounter, will drop out of the team though, making way for Joe Gomez.
James Milner is enjoying his finest campaign for Liverpool and is an obvious pick in the middle of the park for the blockbuster clash. Captain Jordan Henderson will return to the starting XI in the defensive midfield role, while the fit-again Wijnaldum should also feature from the get-go, meaning Naby Keita misses out. The fearsome attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane pick themselves.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Matip, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane;
- This is the most-played fixture in English football in the 21st century, with Chelsea and Liverpool facing each other on Saturday for the 58th time in that period.
- Liverpool are looking to win their first seven games to a top-flight campaign for only the second time. The only side to win their opening seven games to a Premier League campaign were Chelsea in 2005/06.
- Chelsea could win their opening four home matches of a Premier League campaign for the first time since 2014-15 under Jose Mourinho.
- Liverpool have only won one of their last eight away Premier League games against fellow ‘big six’ opponents.
- Olivier Giroud has scored five goals in his last six Premier League starts against Liverpool, including the winner in last season’s corresponding fixture in May.
- Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.53
- Over 9.5 Corners @ 1.80
- Full Time Result – Draw @ 3.60
- Correct Scoreline Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool @ 7.50
Player to Watch
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The Belgian wing wizard’s appearance from the bench ten minutes into the second period at Anfield completely changed the complexion of cup tie earlier this week. Hazard went on to score a sensational goal – one of his finest efforts – to clinch the game for Chelsea and send Liverpool crashing out of the tournament.
The Chelsea superstar is enjoying a fine start to the campaign under Sarri, thriving in the new system in place that has afforded him freedom to do what he does best. Hazard has been directly involved in the most Premier League goals this season, scoring five and setting up two. Expect him to carry on from where he left off at Anfield on Wednesday night and pose a huge threat to Liverpool again.
Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool
It promises to be a belter of an encounter between two teams that are challenging for the title at Stamford Bridge this weekend.
On one hand, you have the brilliance of Hazard, who is arguably the best player in the Premier League at the moment, driving Chelsea forward. And on the other hand there is the deadly attacking force of Mane, Firmino and Salah, who if get going, can tear apart the best of the defences, let alone a Chelsea backline that has, at times, looked fragile this season.
Chelsea might have gotten the better of Liverpool earlier this week, but that result is unlikely to have any major bearing on Saturday’s outcome. Both teams will come into the game looking for a victory, but a draw would be a satisfactory outcome for either sides and that is how we at the Hard Tackle expect the clash to pan out on Saturday.