Just three days after meeting at Anfield, Chelsea and Liverpool face each other once again. This time it’s at Stamford Bridge with Liverpool’s 100 percent record in the Premier League on the line.
Before Chelsea’s 0-0 draw against West Ham last Sunday, it looked as if Saturday’s matchup would be between two undefeated teams in the Premier League.
But Chelsea’s lethargy and inability to breach a West Ham side that was set out to defend saw them drop points for the first time this season and raised questions about Chelsea’s title credentials.
On Wednesday night, Chelsea showed a touch of resilience that they didn’t show on Sunday by coming back from 1-0 down to knock Liverpool out of the EFL Cup. A late poached effort from Emerson equalised the score set the stage for Eden Hazard’s world-class finish to seal Liverpool’s fate at Anfield.
However, it’s hard to imagine either side learned anything significant about their opposition ahead of Saturday’s clash.
Both sides made changes for their meeting on Wednesday, with Jurgen Klopp making eight changes and Maurizio Sarri making nine changes from the teams that played at the weekend.
On Saturday, both sides will likely look markedly different, as will Liverpool’s pressing game, which seemed to lack intensity in the first half on Wednesday.
But for Chelsea, Jorginho will return to the first 11 on Saturday, and this could be the type of player that could prove the difference. While Chelsea will also carry Hazard’s threat from the start, the Italy international might be the most important member of Chelsea’s squad.
One thing that made Jorginho so productive at Napoli was his ability to use one-twos to facilitate the type of pass-and-move attack that was the hallmark of Sarri’s team.
Against teams like West Ham, Jorginho does a great job of recycling possession, but because the opponents are sitting so deep, it’s hard for him to impose one-twos to create space for his attackers.
He should get plenty of opportunities to try and work that style of play against a Liverpool side that presses so heavily and can be exposed if you can work your way around the press. The question will be if the Chelsea midfield can cope with the speed of the Liverpool press, especially as they struggled against it in the second half on Wednesday.
For Liverpool, their major change will be the return of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino to the starting 11. Both players weren’t introduced until very late in the match, and unlike Hazard, who entered around the 50-minute mark, they weren’t able to really affect the outcome of the match.
But they will have the opportunity from the start on Saturday, and if Chelsea have one weakness, it’s the back line, which has been exposed at times due to Sarri’s defensive system.
It is likely that Chelsea will look to dominate possession as a form of defence, but the front three of Firmino, Salah, and Sadio Mane have proven to be a potent counter-attacking force if Liverpool are able to win the ball high up the pitch.
Chelsea are going to have to find a way to prevent the Liverpool counter attack from creating openings, and if they can’t handle Liverpool’s counter pressing system, Sarri’s team could be in for a real beating on Saturday.