PREDICTING THE LIVERPOOL TEAM TO FACE CHELSEA
Liverpool take on Chelsea in an early face off between two title challengers in the Premier League tomorrow. The European champions visit Anfield with kickoff slated for 5:30 pm BST (4:30 pm GMT). The two sides have identical records in the league’s embryonic stages so far. Two wins, five goals scored, two clean sheets. Liverpool have turned over Norwich and Burnley, whilst the Blues have overcome Crystal Palace and Arsenal.
This is a game that has been receiving a huge buildup, at least before the Champions League draw and Ronaldo’s return. Still though, it remains an early chance for both sides to get one over a title contender. Chelsea’s record signing, Romelu Lukaku, scored on his debut last week as he terrorised the Arsenal defence with his physicality. His battle with Virgil Van Dijk could be one for the ages. Let’s take a look at the team we think Jurgen Klopp will line up with.
James Milner is the only player unavailable for the Reds as the knock that ruled him out against Burnley, sees him miss out again. The 35 year old is slated for a return to action post international break when Liverpool travel to Leeds. With a full squad to choose from tomorrow, we expect the manager to have one or two headaches over some positions in the team as he sticks to his tried and tested 4-3-3 formation.
In goal will be Alisson Becker, the Brazilian looking to keep his third clean sheet of the season before the international break. At right back, Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to start. The Scouser has created more chances than any of his teammates and the attackers will hope he can keep putting them on a plate for them. At centre back, Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk are expected to continue their fruitful partnership.
Left back is the first headache for Jurgen as Kostas Tsimikas has impressed in both outings owing to Robertson’s ankle injury. The Greek was voted Liverpool’s Man of the Match by Reds supporters last week and can count himself bitterly unlucky if he misses out. As good as he’s been though, he’s been subbed off in both games as the intensity has gotten to him. Klopp said it was as if “somebody pulled the plug” against Norwich.
The intensity will be turned up a couple of notches tomorrow and as such, we expect Andy Robertson to return. He was only out for two or so weeks and has been training for a whole week so it’s unlikely he’s lost much in terms of sharpness. It also helps that he’s faced Chelsea several times before. His boundless energy levels will be required up and down that left flank. Tsimikas will definitely get games this season though.
In midfield, Fabinho is expected to return to the lineup after missing out last week due to compassionate leave. Jordan Henderson is another who is almost a shoo-in. The skipper was impressive in the holding role against Burnley and should be pushed further forward for tomorrow’s clash. He will line up on the right of Fabinho and will fill a box to box role, covering Trent and also combining with the forwards.
Alongside them, it’s a toss up between Naby Keita, Thiago Alcantara, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones. We expect Jones and Elliott to be overlooked for their more experienced counterparts, unless Jurgen wants to throw in a surprise. Between Naby, Ox and Thiago, we expect the Guinean to get the nod as Thiago has only had ten minutes of action so far, whilst Ox was anonymous on opening day before missing last week due to the birth of his child.
Keita has more minutes in his legs and is sharper at the minute, having played well in both games. In attack, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah are assured starters out wide (again, unless wants to throw in a surprise). Through the middle, it’s a straight choice between Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino. Jota offers pace and the ability to interchange effectively with Sadio and Mo, as well as an unerring finishing ability.
Bobby offers hold up play and a better linkup play with the two wide men as he usually drops deep to get involved in buildup. The choice will be down to the tactics Jurgen wants to employ on the day, but from where we stand, it’s Jota who should get the nod. He’s in great form having scored in both games, and in a game against as tight a defence as Chelsea possess, chances will be few and far between. Being clinical will be the difference and there’s no one more clinical in the Liverpool squad than Diogo.
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Keita, Salah, Jota, Mané.
Subs: Kelleher, Gomez, Konate, Tsimikas, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Thiago, Jones, Elliott, Firmino.