The Game Of The Weekend

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Chelsea vs Liverpool

5.30pm Saturday 29th September

Available to view on the sports channels you know and the streaming sites you don’t.

Chelsea host Liverpool in the Saturday late fixture in an encounter that could prove to be one of more exciting games of the season so far if both teams play to their strengths at the weekend. It’s the second time the clubs have met in the space of seventy two hours after Eden Hazard’s now world famous winner in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night. In terms of the premiership, both clubs have enjoyed a fast start to the 2018/19 season with Liverpool the only team to still have a perfect start after six games following Chelsea’s goalless draw away at West Ham last weekend. Despite that minor setback, the West London outfit have started better under new boss Maurizio Sarri than many expected and could be the first side to take points off Liverpool this season.

That being said, many would assert that Liverpool are still the slight favourites for the encounter despite Wednesday night’s result and reasons for this are manifold. Despite it being perhaps too early in the season to judge, they seem to have found a new hunger after painfully missing out on the Champions League in May. Despite being wasteful in front of goal in the last The Game Of The Weekend clash versus Spurs at Wembley, they still ran out very comfortable winners in a fixture that they were destroyed in last season. This fresh zest coupled with a newly refined back line that has only conceded two goals in six league games means that Liverpool seem to be a different animal to years previous. The front three of Salah, Mane and Firmino are still collectively racking up enough goals and assists to finish teams off yet it is indeed the contingent that plays behind them that could take Liverpool to the next level this year. Quite simply, if they can keep scoring two to three goals on average a game and not concede many at the other end then they will be a force that perhaps only Manchester City can reckon with.

Clearly though, with us still being in the month of September, its premature to map out future glories for the Anfield faithful just yet and if anyone is going to put a couple of goals past Allison in the Liverpool goal it’s going to be Chelsea at home. With no Champions League to worry about, allowing them to rest star man Eden Hazard (which Liverpool wished they had done on Wednesday night) Chelsea can afford to keep he and other key players fresh just as they did when they dominated the league two years ago under Antonio Conte. And of course rested or not, Liverpool’s first choice defence must get a better grip (perhaps literally) of Hazard than the second string did this week. His wonderful goal at Anfield on Wednesday night underlined how he can turn a game on it’s head when he is in full flow. Yet it also showcases a more selfish side to his game that his nature often neglects. The Belgium captain has clearly been given free reign by Sarri and Chelsea fans will hope that he will utilises this freedom to score more individual goals like the other night or at least more goals in general. Goals that the team will need if strikers Morata and Giroud both struggle to take a stranglehold of their number nine responsibilities.

Of course how Liverpool’s defence deal with a Hazard spearheaded attack will be vital on Saturday, yet perhaps more crucial will be how Chelsea’s own back four keep out the thunderous Liverpool frontline. Despite, having only conceded four goals in the league so far, The Blues are defensively still adapting to Sarri’s unique system and Liverpool will surely target Marcos Alonso’s defensive frailties as a buccaneering left back. ‘Sarri-ball’ should mean Chelsea have plenty of the ball yet it is if they can cope with the blistering counter attack of Liverpool when they lose it that is likely to be a defining factor in Saturday’s result. Though they do have the seemingly superhuman engine of N’Golo Kante at their disposal to track back if Alonso is busy attempting to add to his one goal and five assists for the season.

Naturally, the key battles in a game like this won’t just be attack versus defence, the high quality midfield trios of each team will have to try to gain superiority in the middle of the park. Liverpool must attempt to shut down the influential Jorginho and Kovacic who are both key to the high possession/high tempo style that is integral to Sarri teams. Whoever plays opposite these two for Liverpool (there’s real strength in depth in that area of the pitch for Klopp’s side) they will have to try to break up play as much as possible to keep Chelsea out of sync and also win the second balls in order to release the danger men up front. Again, whichever side comes out on top in this engine room war of attrition will likely be the victor adding yet another dimension to what already proves to be a highly intriguing encounter.

One that when looking at form and momentum in the league you would give Liverpool the edge however Chelsea’s win at Anfield, even though it was versus a significantly weaker Liverpool side, will give them a boost that might take them over the line on Saturday and back to the top of the table. Also news that influential centre back Virgil Van Dijk may be out for Liverpool could level the playing field even more. Therefore, just like last time out in The Game Of The Weekend, this game really is a tough one to call. So much so that you wouldn’t be surprised to tune into Match Of The Day on Saturday night and see Gary Lineker et al praise either of these teams for an outstanding victory or both for a draw that encouraged fans and entertained neutrals in equal measure.


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