Chelsea face Liverpool twice this week, with the opening match at Anfield in the league cup. The opposition have had an unbeaten start to the season in the league, and opened their champions league campaign with a win at home to PSG. Chelsea have also won in Europe away at PAOK, and only dropped their first points in the league on Sunday away at West Ham.
We reached the semi of the competition last season, losing over two legs against Arsenal. The last time we won the competition was in 2015, which was also the last time we faced Liverpool in the league cup. The away leg then finished 1-1, as have the subsequent three matches we have played at Anfield. Whilst the last three have all been in the league, 1-1 looks to be the score line to bet on as far as form in this fixture goes. The two sides met in the final in 2005. Held at Cardiff’s millennium stadium, Chelsea won 3-2 after extra time in a thrilling final. Going behind to a John Arne Riise strike in the first minute, Chelsea got back level when Gerrard headed into his own net with ten minutes remaining. Drogba then reacted quickest in the area from a corner to put us ahead in extra time, before Kezman bundled home our third from a Glen Johnson long throw. Nunez pulled one back late on for Liverpool but Chelsea held on to win the first trophy of the Abramovich era, and our first for five years. The last time Liverpool won the competition was 2012; the year Chelsea became champions of Europe.
This will be a difficult match to call, due to the uncertainty over both teams’ line-ups. With both sides facing each other in the league at the weekend, rotation from both managers is expected. However this is Maurizio Sarri’s first league cup campaign with Chelsea, and as at Napoli he is proving to be reluctant to rotate too much. In the Europa league away win at PAOK for instance he only changed Azpilicueta, Luiz and Hazard from the previous weekend. Kovacic was also rested but he had picked up a knock against Cardiff in the previous match. If a similar approach is taken with the league cup then expect the backbone of the league side to feature. With Chelsea managers always expected to achieve in their first season in the job, it would not be a surprise to see Sarri give this competition the respect it deserves and go all out to win it. Being the first trophy available to win it can have a great effect on the team for the rest of the season if you can win it. For instance in four out of the five seasons we have won this competition, we have also gone on to win another trophy during that season.
Neither team will want to give too much away here, but whoever Liverpool field we can expect a high press, and most probably a 4-3-3 system. Chelsea will certainly line up 4-3-3, so central midfield and winning your 1v1’s out wide will be important. For Chelsea to play around the press it will require quick ball movement and good runs off the ball. Both are things we have seen from Sarri’s side this season. Zappacosta, Christensen and Barkley as well as Willian came in for the Europa league match. Of those four only Christensen and Zappacosta were making their first start, so they are certainly possibilities to start on Wednesday. Fabregas is now fit after a knee injury, while Cahill came on as a sub for Rudiger on Sunday. Rudiger and Pedro are likely to be ruled out through injury, so hopefully Christensen can play again after an excellent season last year.
Whoever lines up for each side, both Sarri and Klopp will want to ‘get one up’ on the other before we face off again on Saturday. Neither will want extra time, but don’t rule it out here.