Both sides have a chance to land an early blow in this season’s battle to become champions
Chelsea v Liverpool, Saturday 29 September, 5pm, BT Sport 1/HD (CH 531/527)
If your plans for Saturday 29 September don’t involve watching Chelsea’s Premier League showdown with Liverpool live on BT Sport, you have our deepest sympathies.
It’s an absolutely mammoth clash between two teams who are definitely in the running to become Premier League champions, but could it be that the hosts are better equipped to go all the way this season?
Here, two of our sports writers argue it out…
Do Chelsea have what it takes to lift the trophy this season?
Jack Prescott: YES! Chelsea are better all-rounders
There’s less pressure on the Blues
Chelsea have a new manager, which basically means they’ve got a free hit in the Premier League this season. Win the thing and it’s happy days. Fail to pick up the trophy and they can always have another crack next year. That’s not the case for Liverpool. It’s now three years since Jürgen Klopp took charge at Anfield, and the pressure is mounting for the German to deliver the club’s first league title since 1990.
Beware of Hazard
Move over Mo. Run away Roberto. Slide to the side, Sadio. You just know Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is going to have one of those seasons that gets Real Madrid hot under the collar. The Belgian international among the world top football talent and can win matches single-handedly in a way few players can. And a determined Hazard is even more dangerous. He won’t have liked being snubbed for the PFA Team of the Season in 2017-18, so expect plenty of game-changing performances from him during the remainder of the campaign.
Chelsea have the better squad
Hazard. Kanté. Jorginho. Azpilicueta. Pedro. Alonso. Willian. Morata. Giroud. From silky playmakers to tough-tackling scamps (and Danny Drinkwater), Chelsea have a little bit of everything in their squad. Who cares if manager Maurizio Sarri is still getting a feel for the rough and tumble of the Premier League? With these players at his disposal, anything is possible. But if you think Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren are title winners in waiting, you go ahead and think that.
Joe McGuire: NO! Klopp’s Reds have the X factor
Attack! Attack! Attack!
Imagine it. You’ve somehow managed to bundle Sadio Mané off the ball… then it falls to Roberto Firmino, and running alongside him is Mo Salah. The sheer pace, power and depth of Liverpool’s attack is enough to instil some serious doubts into any of Europe’s best backlines. And, as their win over Leicester City proved, even when one of them has an off day, another, more often than not, still comes away with a goal.
This weekend’s fixture will be Klopp’s 113th in the Premier League. For Maurizio Sarri, it will be his seventh. While Liverpool dropped far too many points to lower-placed teams last year, Klopp is demonstrating that he’s learned from past mistakes. In assembling a squad with greater depth and durability, Liverpool are now able to grind through their poorer performances and still come away with a win (and still attack and harry their table-topping rivals with their trademark “gegenpressing”). Over a long, gruelling season, that difference in experience and their ability to eke out results could make all the difference.
Defensive leaks look to have been plugged
As ferocious as Liverpool’s attack has been in recent seasons, it’s nothing new – with the lethal trio of Suárez, Sturridge and Sterling preceding that of Salah, Mané and Firmino. The defence, meanwhile, has long looked about as indestructible as tissue paper. But, with wing-backs Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s pace and power, and the solidity and strength of centre-backs Virgil van Djik and a fit-again Joe Gomez, Liverpool look impressively hard to beat… except that one time Alisson thought he was a young Pelé and gifted a goal to Leicester.
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