Liverpool vs Chelsea Preview - Potential Key Battles
Liverpool’s Premier League title charge faces probably its final big test as Chelsea travel to Anfield on Sunday, looking to upset the Reds. This is a fixture absolutely teeming with history, and the infamous game between the two sides in 13-14 will be hanging over the fixture. With that in mind, coupled with Klopp’s poor record against Chelsea, with just two wins in eight attempts, Liverpool will be nervous. They’ve not beaten Chelsea at Anfield since 2012, eight games in all competitions. So what are the key battles ahead of this colossal fixture?
Trent Alexander-Arnold vs Eden Hazard
Given that he’s not starting against Slavia Prague, it’s almost a given that Hazard starts at Anfield. And he’s in red hot form, having scored two stunning goals against West Ham. This is one of the best seasons of Hazard’s career, and he’s undoubtedly one of the Premier League’s top players, having scored an insane solo goal against the Reds in the League Cup in September. With that in mind, Trent Alexander-Arnold may need to curb some of his own attacking instincts, but it’ll be interesting to see exactly what Klopp does tactically to ensure that Hazard isn’t able to isolate Trent or Matip and cause Liverpool lots of problems.
On the other hand, the right side might be where Chelsea are the weakest defensively, and Hazard will have to be alert to Trent’s own dangers. It’s a side of his game that maybe isn’t as weak as other flair players of his type, but nevertheless, he’s absolutely vital to Chelsea’s chances and it would be huge for them if he can also turn in a strong defensive performance.
Mo Salah vs Emerson
Yeah I know, Mo Salah is a key player to Liverpool every week, but that’s especially true in big games. What’s potentially more interesting about this tussle is that Marcus Alonso is starting in the Europa League, whereas Emerson has started four of the last six league games, including on Monday against West Ham, having only started one league game all season.
The implication that Emerson, who has been Chelsea’s second choice all season, will be starting at Anfield could be a big opportunity for Salah to continue his form, having finally broke the camel’s back against Southampton.
Jordan Henderson vs N’golo Kante
Trying to second guess Jürgen Klopp’s midfield selections is absolutely pointless. Certainly, three of Henderson, Milner, Fabinho, Gini, Keita and Lallana will play against Chelsea. I would expect the midfield to either be Fabinho, Hendo, Wijnaldum or Hendo, Gini, Milner, but either way, I think Hendo is the most player to be a starter.
If he’s the deepest midfielder, then the battle between him and Kante will be one of transition. Kante will be playing higher up the field so it’s a case of whether or not either player can keep possession on sharp turnovers, and whether either can generate more.
And if Henderson is a more attacking outlet, as he has been against Porto and Saints, then the question becomes slightly different, about whether him or Kante can have more of an influence on their team’s attacking play. Chelsea tend to go through Hazard and individual quality, whilst Liverpool go through the full-backs and Firmino. But if either Henderson or Kante can have a big attacking contribution, as Hendo did the last time Liverpool won against Chelsea under Klopp – 2-1 in September 2016 at Stamford Bridge – then it will go a long way towards deciding the tie.