Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 1/2
Many expect the title race in the Premier League this season to be much more interesting and more teams to stake a claim in it than in the last couple of years, given that Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United all played very well towards the end of 2019/20. They could all indeed come much closer to Liverpool and Manchester City this time around.
The first ‘blockbuster’ of the season is scheduled to take place at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, when Chelsea will take on Liverpool.
As has been said, Chelsea stepped their game up towards the end of last season and secured a top-four finish, together with reaching the FA Cup final. They ended up in fourth place on 66 points, the same as Manchester United in third and four more than Leicester City in fifth.
A busy summer followed for Frank Lampard’s side. Having previously secured winger Hakim Ziyech from Ajax, they added striker Timo Werner from RB Leipzig, left-back Ben Chilwell from Leicester, centre-back Thiago Silva from Paris Saint-Germain and attacking midfielder Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen to their ranks, and they’re reportedly on the verge of signing Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
Nonetheless, their performance in the opening round away to Brighton and Hove Albion wasn’t the best. They walked away with a 1-3 triumph, but luck was fairly on their side for most of the contest, before the hosts lost their drive in the final 30 minutes. A much tougher challenge awaits them on Sunday, and they will have to put in much more effort to get a result against the defending champions.
There was some doubt about the availability of Werner after the Brighton game. The striker was seen with an icepack on his thigh. However, he has been passed fit and will be in contention to face the club he almost joined before Chelsea swooped in. Fellow new signings Ziyech, Chilwell and Silva remain out, however.
Midfielder Mateo Kovacic was suspended last week, but he is now also available.
Defenders Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger were both left out of the starting XI in the opening round, and it remains to be seen if Lampard picks Reece James and Kurt Zouma over the more experienced duo again.
Winger Christian Pulisic and midfielder Billy Gilmour are both out with injuries.
There’s no need to talk too much about what Liverpool did last season. It’s quite sufficient to repeat that they won the league for the first time in 30 years and in a convincing manner, finishing 18 points over second-place Manchester City, even though their form dropped significantly after the title had been mathematically secured. They beat Chelsea in both league games, but were knocked out of the FA Cup by Lampard’s men.
For a long time it looked as if they’d go through another extremely quiet summer transfer window, and the signing of backup left-back Kostas Tsimikas from Olympiacos did little to change that. However, things picked up significantly on Friday when they completed the signing of midfielder Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich and agreed a deal for Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Diogo Jota.
Liverpool started their title defence with a home win over Leeds United, but much like Chelsea, they didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory in the opening round. Defensive mistakes at both ends added to what would have probably been a lively affair anyway, with Marcelo Bielsa’s side extremely well prepared in terms of tactics.
Speaking to the press ahead of this game, manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed that there were no new injury worries. It means that midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the only certain absentee for the Stamford Bridge trip. Defender Joel Matip and midfielder Jordan Henderson both played a part against Leeds after respective injuries. Winger Xherdan Shaqiri didn’t but he is now fit as well.
Naturally, it’s much too early for Thiago who only joined the club on Friday, as well as Jota, whose transfer is expected to be confirmed today.
There has been great rivalry between these two clubs in recent years. Not in over six years have Chelsea fans allowed their Liverpool counterparts to forget the infamous Steven Gerrard slip which arguably cost the Merseysiders the title in 2013/14. On the other hand, it was Chelsea who helped Liverpool secure the title last season when they beat Manchester City in June. Further more, Chelsea haven’t beaten Liverpool in a Premier League match since May 2018.
At the moment, it’s not very clear how either team will shape up this season, given the number and significance of the signings they’ve made (and might yet make) this summer. The opening round provided very little input on that matter. But it seems we’re in for an exciting contest with lots of attacking intent from both sides, and if the defences don’t do better than against Brighton and Leeds, respectively, there should be goals at either end.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best odds: 1/2
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