By: Mauricio Ponce
This Saturday, Liverpool welcomes Chelsea at Anfield in a mouth watering fixture that could shape the title race, despite only being the third game in the 21/22 Premier League season. Thomas Tuchel’s blues and Jurgen Klopp’s reds share the same record going into this fixture, both clubs won their opening two games, scoring five each and conceding none.
Lukaku vs Van Dijk
Headlines will point toward Chelsea’s new star striker Romelu Lukaku, who scored on his debut against Arsenal last Sunday. That being said, questions will be asked on how he can deal with Liverpool’s defence, with the reds having all first team center backs fit and ready to play. The return of Virgil Van Dijk is a huge morale boost for liverpool, and the battle between Lukaku and Van Dijk is going to be exciting to say the least. Lukaku bullied Arsenal’s defence, dragging Defender Pablo Mari around the pitch during Chelsea’s 2-0 win last weekend. Lukaku is an incredibly physical striker, not shying away from any defender, he likes to drop back and receive the ball short causing defenders to focus on him rather than the other players on the pitch, this tactic frees them up for runs into their opponents final 3rd. A ruthless finisher, Lukaku can make any half chance into a solid one, so Liverpool has to keep a good eye on him. Virgil Van Dijk has dealt with Lukaku during his time at Manchester United, so he faces a threat that isn’t a new challenge. Van Dijk has a massive frame, and at 6’4, can deal with Lukaku’s aerial prowess, while having the speed and strength to go shoulder to shoulder with him.
Battle of the fullbacks
Another key battle on the pitch is with the full backs. Liverpool may have to play without Andrew Robertson, who picked up a knock during pre-season. Kostas Tsimikas, the Greek left back has stepped up to the challenge, having two consistently good games to start the season and even providing a wonderful assist to Diogo Jota during their 2-0 win against Burnley. Trent Alexander-Arnold will look to create chances and always be on the attack, but has to keep in mind that Chelsea will be intently looking to counter attack if he's caught out of position. On Chelsea’s side, they have a dynamic, attack minded pair of full backs themselves, Reece James and Marcos Alonso, who add another layer to chelsea’s offense. Reece James will be coming off a MOTM performance at the Emirates last Sunday, scoring and assisting in a 2-0 win. Alexander-Arnold is going to have his hands full dealing with James and his explosive speed along with his willingness to go forward and create, so look out for those two during the game.
Liverpool will have to put a lot of trust in Fabinho Tavares, who will be in the thick of this contest playing defensive midfield. He missed out on Liverpool’s game with Burnley due to personal matters but is back in training for a shoe-in for a starting role. Fabhino is a hard tackler and intelligent reader of the game, providing cover for Liverpool’s defence and starting off the attack after winning possession. A dominant figure in the air, he can also give Lukaku a challenge for winning headers in the attacking third. With all the midfielders fit, Jurgen Klopp still has many options for the two other midfielders to accompany Fabinho in the holding role. Klopp used Naby Keita, James Milner, and Oxlade-Chamberlain in their Premier League opener at Norwich, while Jordan Henderson, Keita, and Harvey Elliot started at Anfield against burnley. As well as Thiago, a name still to be mentioned. Klopp has talent at his disposal but will have to choose wisely as Chelsea poses more of a threat than Norwich and Burnley. Tuchel has a strong midfield as well. Jorginho will look to resume responsibility of orchestrating Chelsea’s midfield, the Italian was just crowned Uefa’s Player of the Year a few short days ago. While Mateo Kovacic looks to be next to him, Chelsea have a well balanced midfield two, who can maintain balance while also dictating play along with both having great passing ability.
Playing ahead of them in a 3-4-2-1 formation is the tricky attacking duo of Havertz and Mount. They will be looking to carry the ball up the pitch and link up with Lukaku to create some good chances. The additions of Marcos Alonso and James running up the wings to provide runs for crosses Chelsea have the quality to cause chaos in Liverpool's third.
Both clubs will want to compete for the title this season, this is the first of many stepping stones that they would like to gain from. This game can have serious effects on both the winner and the loser, so expect a brawl this coming Saturday.