Chelsea

All you need to know: Chelsea vs Liverpool

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The highly anticipated return of the Premier League is upon us, and the excitement is palpable as Chelsea enthusiasts brace themselves for the kickoff. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are poised for action, ready to dive into the unfolding drama.

As the revered Chelsea icon Ray Wilkins often noted, the sweet scent of freshly cut grass signals the dawn of a new football season – a sentiment that resonates deeply as the action recommences. The Premier League sets the stage for an enthralling opening clash, with Mauricio Pochettino, the newly appointed head coach of the Blues, leading the charge against the formidable Liverpool.

Both squads find themselves in transitional phases, seeking to rebound from a lackluster 2022/23 campaign. The stage is set for an engaging showdown that promises goals aplenty at either end of the pitch. Remarkably, the past six encounters across various competitions between these titans have all ended in draws, with the most recent quartet of meetings yielding no contributions to the scoreboard from either side.

Nonetheless, Pochettino is poised to emulate the feat achieved by Leicester’s Craig Shakespeare in February 2017, by inaugurating his tenure with a triumphant victory over Liverpool. Both the Argentine strategist and Chelsea possess impressive records on the season’s opening weekend. Pochettino boasts five wins from his last seven such outings, while the Blues have secured victory in 20 and drawn six of their previous 31 Premier League openers.

Looking at the team dynamics, Pochettino’s imprint on Chelsea is already evident, evident through a renewed sense of energy, purpose, and creativity. Pre-season activities have witnessed the emergence of burgeoning partnerships, an increased presence in the opponent’s penalty area, better-organized pressing, and strategic maneuvers tailored to players who wield significant influence.

The unbeaten streak in five pre-season matches served as a platform for Pochettino to evaluate and refine the squad he intends to lead in his inaugural campaign at Chelsea. Noteworthy contributors in terms of minutes logged include Conor Gallagher, who was occasionally deployed in a high-pressing role, goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, attacker Christopher Nkunku, and Ian Maatsen, who excelled in an advanced position.

Unfortunately, Nkunku, a pivotal figure in Pochettino’s dynamic approach, will be sidelined for several months due to a knee injury. Chief summer assist provider Nico Jackson, a versatile forward, seems poised to lead the attacking line against Liverpool, potentially making for a demanding Sunday outing for Mykhailo Mudryk. The strategy to elude the Reds’ initial pressing could expose vulnerabilities in their defense and flanks, which align with the strengths of the lightning-fast Ukrainian player.

On the tactical front, the potential inclusion of Raheem Sterling, pitted against his former club on the right flank, adds another layer of intrigue. Young Brazilian talent Andrey Santos has made an impressive mark, although his debut might be delayed, paving the way for Enzo and Gallagher to hold down the midfield against formidable initial opponents. Pochettino has been vocal in praising the incisive movements of no.10 Carney Chukwuemeka on the fringes of the opponent’s box.

In the defensive setup, Malo Gusto emerges as a credible contender to challenge skipper Reece James for the right-back spot, while Levi Colwill is expected to partner Thiago Silva in central defense. Left-back Ben Chilwell’s performances suggest he’s regaining his peak athleticism, keeping Marc Cucurella at bay. Injured players Benoit Badiashile and Wes Fofana add to the defensive concerns, allowing ample time for towering newcomer Axel Disasi to acclimate.

The acquisition of goalkeeper Robert Sanchez adds a competitive edge to the goalkeeping position, likely to spark a rivalry with Kepa for playing time. As the vibrant winger Noni Madueke and the versatile Trevoh Chalobah regain fitness after an injury-disrupted pre-season, their involvement is anticipated in the near future.

The allocation of penalty-taking duties in critical situations, as witnessed in three of the Blues’ previous five league openers, remains a captivating subplot. Turning the spotlight to the opposition, Liverpool’s pre-season performances might carry mixed signals, yet the high-scoring warm-up matches echoed their tumultuous final fixture of 2022/23, which culminated in a pulsating 4-4 draw against relegated Southampton.

A 4-3 loss to Bayern Munich underscored the Reds’ offensive potency while shedding light on their defensive frailties, particularly in the wide areas. Manager Jurgen Klopp attributed lapses to fatigue-induced lapses in concentration and decision-making. However, glimpses of the tactical blueprint he envisions emerged, offering a glimmer of optimism.

Liverpool’s midfield landscape has undergone a transformation, marked by the departures of stalwarts such as Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, and James Milner, coupled with an injury sidelining Thiago Alcantara. Among these departures, Fabinho’s absence is most keenly felt, given his role as Klopp’s stalwart defensive anchor. During pre-season, Curtis Jones exhibited promise as a potential successor to this pivotal role.

The friendly encounters showcased the debuts of key signings Dominik Szoboszlai, an attacking midfielder with proficiency in taking free kicks, and former Brighton dynamo Alexis Mac Allister, who brings versatility and box-to-box prowess. Klopp’s tactical shift towards a contemporary 3-box-3 formation sees Trent Alexander-Arnold transitioning to a central midfield role, while right centre-back Ibrahima Konate shoulders the responsibility of covering flanks during counterattacks. Alexander-Arnold’s role evolves from a traditional wing-back to a deep-lying playmaker, orchestrating play from a deeper position.

The attacking trident of Luiz Diaz, Diogo Jota, and former Chelsea player Mo Salah showcased their scoring prowess in a recent friendly against Darmstadt. The potential inclusion of Darwin Nunez, who exhibits a strong rapport with Salah, adds another dimension to Liverpool’s attacking options. However, the disciplined Cody Gakpo is likely to be preferred against Chelsea.

For those eager to witness the clash, Sky Sport will provide live coverage of the match in the Uk.

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