By Ritchie Slack (@Slack_9)
Defending Premier League champions Liverpool travel to the nation’s capital to face a lavishly assembled side in Frank Lampard’s Chelsea – and there are subplots galore!
New boy Thiago Alcantara could play after Klopp, speaking on Friday, said he ‘could be in training this afternoon’. But, if not, the Champions League winner will no doubt be watching on with twitchy feet as he prepares to make his much anticipated first appearance in Liverpool red.
Liverpool’s exciting new left-back Kostas Tsimikas has recovered from Covid-19 after testing positive before the start of the season. Xherdan Shaqiri also returned to training midweek and played in a friendly Liverpool XI against a Huddersfield XI, recovering from a calf injury which kept him out for most of last season. Shaqiri has been illusive in recent times, but there is still an air of excitement and anticipation that accompanies the Swiss superstar. For the Reds, only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a confirmed absentee.
That being said, you can still deduce that there will be changes made after the opening day thriller against Leeds: Who starts alongside Virgil Van Dijk? Who will make up the midfield trio? The only thing for certain is that the front-three won’t change… but after Taki Minamino’s impressive midweek display, capped with a goal, perhaps the front-three are facing healthy competition at last with the Japanese forward growing in confidence.
Jurgen Klopp has a plethora of talent to choose from, but after his side conceded three goals to newly-promoted Leeds, he may opt for more cover in the midfield and start with his trusted and steady trio of Fabinho, Henderson and Wijnaldum. Klopp will want to ensure Alisson Becker’s net isn’t ambushed too many times again and may opt to bring in the more defensive-minded Fabinho. Whilst the attacking and pressing prowess of Naby Keita salivates Liverpool fans’ lips, the idiom ‘horses for courses’ springs to mind.
In the blue corner
Chelsea also come into the game off the back of a win against Brighton, with Timo Werner looking sharp; Werner is expected to recover in time for the game despite suffering a slight knee injury against the Seagulls. The former Leipzig man labelled Liverpool a ‘great team’ this week, and will be determined to make his mark against the club who were touted to be on the cusp of signing him before (and during) Lockdown.
Selection wise, Christian Pulisic and Ben Chilwell won’t feature due to injury and Thiago Silva and Hakim Ziyech are not yet match fit and won’t play according to manager Frank Lampard. But Matteo Kovacic could return after suspension.
Lampard has not shied away from the media’s questions about Klopp following the 5-3 defeat his Chelsea team suffered at Anfield a few months ago; since then he has been embroiled in a verbal brawl with the Reds manager on issues such as spending, success and… arrogance?! Don’t you just love irony? The tension between Lampard and Klopp will no doubt enhance the on-field spectacle. The two clubs have been hostile rivals since the Abramovich era began and certainly since 2005, and ‘that goal’.
There is no doubt Chelsea have manufactured a wonderful team. It is difficult as a football fan not to feel a little bit of pleasure (perhaps a smidge of envy) to see the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech strut their stuff in the Premier League. Chelsea also have exciting talents in Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount and Reece James (a youngster who no doubt is eyeing up the England right-back spot, which of course, is currently occupied by Liverpool’s right back TAA).
However, the signing of Thiago Silva, who didn’t feature last weekend, may prove to be the most important signing for the Blues. Chelsea’s defensive frailties were on full display against Brighton last Monday, who should have capitalised more than once from their chances. The Londoners will need to be more organised this Sunday if they have any hope of stopping the Egyptian king.
Whatever happens on Sunday, it promises to deliver goals, drama and plenty of controversy. A defeat for either team would certainly be a big blow, but whichever way this one goes, this renewed rivalry is likely to last a while longer yet.
Let the subplots and games begin: who will have the bragging rights come Sunday evening? Comment below.