Two contenders for the Premier League title will square off this Saturday as Liverpool play hosts to Chelsea at Anfield in Matchweek 3.
The final matchday of the 2021/22 Premier League season before the first international break has thrown our way some exciting fixtures. Reigning champions Manchester City will be facing faltering giants Arsenal in the first fixture on Saturday before we wind things up at Anfield with what will be a heavyweight clash between Liverpool and Chelsea.
Liverpool, after a difficult season last time out, have made a perfect start to the new campaign, winning against Norwich City and Burnley, scoring five unanswered goals across the two games. And, manager Jurgen Klopp will be looking to carry forward that momentum against one of their main rivals in the race for the title, hoping to go into the international break on a high.
Chelsea have also enjoyed a terrific start to the 2021/22 term, having won the UEFA Super Cup before seeing off challenges from Crystal Palace and Arsenal in their opening two Premier League contests. Much like Liverpool, they too have scored five times in the two matches without letting in any. And Thomas Tuchel will be aiming to lead his team to another win to further announce their title credentials.
The corresponding fixture last season, played in March earlier this year, ended in a 1-0 win for Chelsea, courtesy of a first-half strike from Mason Mount. And ahead of this blockbuster encounter on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Liverpool have just one player unavailable for selection as veteran midfielder James Milner misses out with an injury. Fabinho has returned to training after missing the game against Burnley due to the passing of his father and is in line to start against Chelsea. Andrew Robertson is also fully fit and ready to go, handing the Reds a double boost.
Given how well the team has done in the first couple of matches, Jurgen Klopp is likely to refrain from making many changes to the lineup. However, Robertson should return to the starting XI, replacing Kostas Tsimikas at left-back, while Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk hold on to their places in the backline, guarding Alisson Becker in goal.
The battle between Chelsea’s attack-minded wing-backs, Reece James and Marcos Alonso, against Robertson and Alexander-Arnold will be a juicy one and could have a major say in the outcome. With Fabinho back, he should slot in as the No. 6 for Liverpool, allowing Jordan Henderson to move into the right-sided central midfield role, while Naby Keita should be retained after a positive start to the season.
Up ahead, Diogo Jota should once again get the nod over Roberto Firmino in the false nine role, flanked by the dynamic duo of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, both of whom have shown signs of form early in the season.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Keita; Salah, Jota, Mane
Kurt Zouma has been ruled out of the contest as the Frenchman nears a transfer to West Ham United. Apart from him, Christian Pulisic is out with coronavirus, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek remains a major doubt for the reigning champions of Europe for their trip to Anfield.
Tuchel’s 3-4-2-1 shape has done wonders for Chelsea in the last eight months or so, and the German tactician is unlikely to tinker with the formation against Liverpool. Edouard Mendy, fresh after being named the UEFA Champions League Goalkeeper of the Season, will be hoping to secure his third Premier League clean sheet of the season.
Trevoh Chalobah made a brilliant start to the season but was overlooked for the Arsenal clash. And the academy graduate could once again find himself on the bench, with Tuchel opting for his senior defenders in Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger, with the latter two in line for new contracts imminently.
As for the wing-back slots, there is simply no looking past Reece James on the right after his stunning display against Arsenal, while Marcos Alonso’s early-season form warrants his inclusion over Ben Chilwell. N’Golo Kante, who made a brief appearance from the bench in the last game, should start on Saturday alongside Jorginho, who was named the UEFA Best Player of the Year earlier this week.
Finally, in attack, the trio of Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and club-record signing Romelu Lukaku showed great understanding and chemistry in the win over Arsenal and is likely to be persisted with, although Hakim Ziyech is also a strong contender to start after recovering from his injury. Timo Werner will be an option from the bench for the Blues.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso; Mount, Havertz; Lukaku
- Liverpool have lost just two of their last 13 Premier League meetings with Chelsea (W6 D5). However, one of those defeats came in the most recent contest between the two sides.
- Only Manchester United (12) have won more Premier League away games against Liverpool than Chelsea (7).
- Liverpool have fired in the most shots so far in the Premier League this term (46) and have the fourth-highest xG at (4.43). Meanwhile, Chelsea have faced the fewest shots in their two matches (10) and have the lowest xGA (0.95) in the competition.
- After losing just one of his first 13 managerial meetings with Thomas Tuchel in all competitions (W9 D3), Jurgen Klopp has lost his last two against the Chelsea boss.
- Diogo Jota has scored in both of Liverpool’s Premier League so far this season and could become the fourth player to score in each of the Reds’ first three games of a Premier League campaign after Robbie Fowler, Daniel Sturridge and Sadio Mane.
Player to Watch
Romelu Lukaku in training looks like he is a man on a mission, he wants to win silverware. pic.twitter.com/iRt0BP0pAF
— Frank Khalid (@FrankKhalidUK) August 26, 2021
A game filled with superstar names across the pitch, but it is Romelu Lukaku that we have gone for in our Player to Watch section. Having completed a club-record transfer to Chelsea earlier this month, the 28-year-old Belgian wasted no time to make an impact, bullying Arsenal’s defence on his debut, capping off the display with a goal.
On Saturday, though, he will meet his match in one of the best defenders in Europe in the form of Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman has come back strongly from a lengthy spell out on the sidelines and has looked in good touch in the first two games. The battle between him and Lukaku could potentially decide the winners of this blockbuster contest at Anfield.
Although, it must also be noted that Lukaku, after netting four goals in his first four Premier League matches against Liverpool, has managed to score just once in his last 11 appearances versus the Reds. Will he be able to address that issue, or will it be van Dijk that has the last laugh? Not long before we find out.
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
This has all the makings of a tightly-contested, intense battle between two of the strongest teams in the Premier League. Liverpool, as iterated earlier, have had their shooting boots on from the get-go this term, but this Chelsea side is hard to breach and hardly allows oppositions opportunities to create openings.
While Chelsea did defeat Liverpool in the corresponding fixture last term, it must be noted that the Blues had lined up with Fabinho and Ozan Kabak in defence. Now that Virgil van Dijk is back, they look a much more formidable unit and even if Romelu Lukaku does get some join on the evening, it is unlikely that the Reds’ goal will be breached more than once. The Hard Tackle is predicting this one to end in a hard-fought 1-1 draw.