Chelsea vs Liverpool: Premier League Preview and Prediction
It is only the second gameweek of the 2020-21 Premier League season and we already have a blockbuster fixture to savor. Reigning champions Liverpool travel to the capital to face big spending Chelsea in what is a clash of two giants of the game.
The Blues embarked on a spending spree this season, strengthening their squad by adding Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell. On paper, Frank Lampard’s men look like a contender for the league title and a win over the defending champions will be an effective way of living up to that billing.
Liverpool’s transfer activity was limited but they did bring in Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich – adding a much-needed star in their midfield. They defeated Chelsea three times out four last season and Jurgen Klopp will be looking to get another win over Lampard, his rival.
Opening day performances
Both sides racked up three points in their first games of the 2020-21 Premier League.
Liverpool and Leeds United produced a wild game that finished 4-3 in the champions’ favor. Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick (two of the goals were penalties) and Virgil van Dijk scored one to offset goals from Jack Harrison, Patrick Bamford and Mateusz Klich.
Chelsea staved off an impressive Brighton and Hove Albion side at the Amex to open the season with a win. Lampard’s men weren’t at their best but were able to get the three points, with the game finishing 3-1 in their favor.
Jorginho, Reece James and Kurt Zouma etched their names on the scoresheet. James’ long-range thunderbolt in the 56th minute deserves special mention and would be a worthy candidate for Goal of the Season.
Head to Head
Liverpool have had Chelsea’s number in the past couple of years. Klopp’s men have won three straight Premier League games against the Blues.
In the last five games, across all competitions, Liverpool have beaten Chelsea four times. The Blues’ only win came in the FA Cup, where they upstaged the Reds, 2-0, in the fifth round.
The last meeting between the two sides was an eight-goal thriller at Anfield that Liverpool won 5-3.
Naby Keita, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Georginio Wijnaldum, Roberto Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found the net for Liverpool. Olivier Giroud, Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic were the scorers for Chelsea.
Mateo Kovacic returns for Chelsea, serving the one-game suspension he picked up in the FA Cup final loss to Arsenal.
Chilwell, Thiago Silva, Ziyech, and Pulisic remain sidelined for this important game.
There of course, will be a lot of buzz around whether Thiago Alcantara will start or not. Liverpool completed all paperwork in time for him to be eligible for the game, but it will not be surprising if he doesn’t start.
Oxlade-Chamberlain will play no part as he is still recovering from his knee injury. Xherdan Shaqiri has overcome the muscle issue he was facing, and Kostas Tsimikas is back after recovering from coronavirus.
Kurt Zouma vs Mohamed Salah
Salah kicked off Liverpool’s title defense with a hat-trick against Leeds.
While Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jamie Vardy have been tipped to fight it out for this season’s Premier League Golden Boot, one cannot discount the Egyptian’s chances.
Salah’s pace, ball control and ability to test keepers from difficult angles make him a major threat, especially considering Kepa Arrizabalaga’s tendency to commit errors.
Furthermore, Chelsea’s defense still lacks composure. While Zouma has improved by leaps and bounds under Lampard, him against a marauding Salah will not a comfortable sight for the Chelsea faithful.
In Liverpool colors, the Egyptian has scored twice and assisted twice in nine games against the Blues.
Zouma will have to make sure to reduce shot-taking space for Salah as the Egyptian likes to cut inside from the right and shoot with his left foot.
Timo Werner vs Virgil van Dijk
Werner didn’t have a dream debut with Chelsea but looked dangerous with his runs behind Brighton’s defense. He also had a role in Chelsea’s opening goal as he won the penalty that Jorginho converted.
Looking at how Leeds were able to wreak havoc on Virgil van Dijk and Liverpool through Patrick Bamford’s runs, it will be interesting to see how Werner fares.
The German forward was deadly in the Bundesliga last season, scoring 28 goals. Opening his Chelsea account in this game, that too against the man who is considered the best defender in the world, will be a massive confidence booster for Werner.
Van Dijk has to be more careful in this game than he was in the Leeds one. Patrick Bamford forced the Dutchman into committing critical errors and one can expect a similar approach from Werner.
Jorginho vs Fabinho
Former Napoli midfielder Jorginho was Chelsea’s best performer in the win over Brighton.
He scored from the spot and also provided the assist for James’ screamer. In addition to that, he was his usual self, dictating the pace of the game and rotating possession.
Klopp’s instructions to Fabinho would be to press Jorginho and force the Italian into making mistakes. The Brazilian excels as a defensive midfielder and is equipped to pester Chelsea’s midfield metronome.
Controlling Jorginho will be key in nullifying Chelsea’s forays at the offensive end as the Italian is the origin point for all of Chelsea’s moves into the opposition half.
Had Chelsea been at full strength, this would have been a tough game to call. The quality of Ziyech, Thiago Silva and Chilwell is hard to ignore.
As it stands, however, I will give the edge to Liverpool. Klopp’s men have been able to get results against the West London side before and they should do it tomorrow as well.
Liverpool’s defense looked far from their best in the win over Leeds. In fact, they’ve been conceding goals ever since they were confirmed as Premier League champions last season. Keeping that in mind, I see Chelsea scoring one or two past van Dijk and co.
This is the first big game of the season and both sides will give it their all to get a positive result.
Predicted scoreline: Chelsea 1-3 Liverpool