In any season, in any competition, a meeting between Chelsea and Liverpool is one of world football’s great fixtures on the calendar, and after the two sides met only days ago in the League Cup at Anfield, the Blues this time play hosts at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Saturday evening.
As two of only three sides remaining unbeaten in the English top flight this season, Jurgen Klopp takes his Reds side to the capital, bent on exacting revenge for Wednesday night’s defeat on Merseyside
The visitors have won all six of their opening league meetings to start the new campaign, as hopes of winning a first Premier League title become a distinct reality, with few genuine threats to Manchester City’s league crown.
?Chelsea meanwhile were held against a vastly improving ?West Ham United side last Sunday, and as they face the table-toppers this weekend, will be eyeing consecutive wins against the visitors in a matter of days.
As always there are number of key battles that could decide the outcome of Saturday’s game in west London. Here are four of them.
1. Eden Hazard vs. Trent Alexander-Arnold
Both Eden Hazard and Trent Alexander-Arnold locked horns during the World Cup in the third-placed playoff in Russia this past summer, but arguably this meeting has more on the line in a potential battle of title rivals.
Liverpool’s terrier-like right-back has helped the Reds keep four clean sheets in six games, but that statistic will be sorely tested against one of the most in-form players in world football right now.
The Belgian maestro has thrived under he new system of Maurizio Sarri – scoring five league goals thus far – and his solo scorcher in midweek sealed a comeback on Merseyside.
Alexander-Arnold’s weakness lies in his poor decision making with regard to tackles at times, but the Reds defender will have to be on his mettle to keep Hazard from causing further chaos for the visitors.
2. N’Golo Kante vs. James Milner
Two of the toughest, uncompromising operators in the English top flight will do battle in the heart of midfield and sparks could fly between the duo.
N’Golo Kante was brought on with Chelsea 1-0 down with 26 minutes to play in midweek and was indirectly responsible for his side’s rearguard action, scoring in twice in six minutes as the Blues closed out the game.
The Frenchman continues to be a destroyer in the middle of the park, but coming up against James Milner – who has had a sterling beginning the campaign himself – will be more than a match for Kante in the aggression stakes – a factor which be vital this weekend.
3. Cesar Azpilicueta vs. Sadio Mane
Having returned to his more natural full-back berth, Cesar Azpilicueta will be in for a busy evening against Liverpool’s Senegalese livewire.
Sadio Mane has started every game for Jurgen Klopp this term, as the driving force of the Reds’ attack and has thus far upstaged both Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for attacking verve.
Azpilicueta has taken on a more reserved role so far this campaign, but that could serve him well in attempting to snuff out the threat of Mane, who has netted on average once every two league games up to this point in the new season.
4. Willian vs. Andrew Robertson
Willian should continue in the absence of Pedro who is still nursing a shoulder injury and his duel with Andrew Robertson will be fascinating.
The latter has been the most impressive full-back after six games – perhaps only second to Marcos Alonso. The Scot’s bursts up the field, contributing three assists, and his sublime tackle timing make this a pivotal clash at Stamford Bridge.
Whilst Robertson has gone from strength to strength at Liverpool, the Brazilian is still out of sorts adapting to Chelsea’s new gameplan.
One thing is for sure however, the battle on the wing in this particular duel will be one to watch this weekend.