Chelsea vs. Liverpool
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Kick off: 4:30PM
The standout fixture in the second gameweek of the new Premier League season sees champions Liverpool visit Stamford Bridge to take on rivals Chelsea.
Both teams made winning starts to their 2020-21 campaigns, with Chelsea overcoming Brighton & Hove Albion and Liverpool squeezing past newly-promoted Leeds United in a seven-goal thriller.
Both of these sides came into the 2020-21 Premier League season with big expectations, yet neither were at their best on the opening weekend of action.
Chelsea’s significant summer spending spree has resulted in some people tipping them to challenge for Liverpool’s crown this season, although if they are to close that gap then they will need to improve on Monday night’s performance at the Amex Stadium.
Similarly, if Liverpool defend like they did against Leeds on the opening day then it would take a remarkably high-scoring season at the other end of the pitch for them to retain their title.
Crucially, though, both sides ultimately won the game, which is something Liverpool made an art of doing while not at their best last season, whereas Chelsea often dropped points in such games.
In Chelsea’s defence, many of their new arrivals did not feature against Brighton and will not be ready again in time for this contest, with German internationals Timo Werner and Kai Havertz the only players to be handed their debuts.
Frank Lampard will be confident that the duo could wreak havoc if Liverpool allow them as much space as they allowed Leeds, and it was less than two months ago that Chelsea visited Anfield and scored three times before heavily bolstering their attacking ranks.
Of course, the problem in that most recent meeting between the two sides was that they conceded five times, and defence remains the great concern for the Blues going into the new season.
The imminent arrival of Edouard Mendy could help in that respect, with Kepa Arrizabalaga again not covering himself in glory for Brighton’s equalising goal at the Amex.
Had Lewis Dunk’s goalscoring radar also been working then Monday’s contest could have easily ended differently for Chelsea, and Lampard will warn his side that Liverpool will not be so merciful in front of goal.
However, victory over the champions would be an early statement of intent for their season and, having become only the third club to pass the 2,000-point mark in the Premier League on Monday night, they will fancy their chances of adding to that tally in upcoming games against West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace and Southampton too.
Having watched the early game-of-the-season contender at Anfield on the opening weekend, Lampard will at least be confident of creating chances against a Liverpool defence which, although the best in the league last term, has looked far less impenetrable recently.
Since ending their 30-year wait for the title back in June, the Reds have shipped 15 goals in their eight Premier League games – as many as they had conceded in their previous 23 prior to that.
Some of that can perhaps be attributed to taking their foot off the pedal having won the title with seven games to spare, but the new season has hinted at those same problems – they surrendered the lead on three separate occasions against Leeds, while even in pre-season they fell 2-0 down to both Red Bull Salzburg and Blackpool due to a disorganised backline.
Liverpool will know better than anyone what damage Werner could do if that is the case again, having scouted him intensively before ultimately deciding against a move due to the financial implications of lockdown.
The arrival of Thiago Alcantara will sate the Liverpool fans’ desire for a big-name signing, though, and even without the treble-winning Spain international the Reds would still have fancied their chances of outscoring most teams as they did against Leeds.
While the defensive record will be a concern, the flip side of the coin is that Liverpool have scored 11 goals in their last two outings including the pre-season drubbing of Blackpool when they stormed back from a two-goal deficit to win 7-2.
Mohamed Salah was the best player on the park on the opening weekend with a sharp and ruthless display which even prompted comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo from pundit Gary Neville.
Considering their five-goal haul against Chelsea in their last meeting, Jurgen Klopp will be confident that his side have enough firepower to make it two wins from two this weekend, but any trip to Stamford Bridge is difficult.
It comes as part of a tricky start to their defence in general too; having been run close by Leeds, Liverpool now face Chelsea, Arsenal and Merseyside rivals Everton in three of their next four league games, so if they can get through that run unscathed then there will be no doubting their title credentials again.
Chelsea played an important role in that title triumph, of course, with their win over Manchester City leaving Liverpool unassailable at the top and then providing the opponents on the day the Reds finally got their hands on the trophy – an eight-goal thriller only adding to the occasion.
As ever, there will be no love lost between the two rivals, though, and there will also be a watchful eye on the touchlines after Lampard and Klopp became embroiled in a heated row the last time they faced off.
Chelsea possible XI: Kepa, James, Rudiger, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Kante, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi, Havertz, Mount, Werner.
Liverpool possible XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Keita, Salah, Firmino, Mane.