Two Premier League heavyweights meet on Saturday evening as the Blues travel to Liverpool to renew one of the oldest rivalries in the Premier League. Both sides have endured shaky starts to their respective seasons, both domestically and in Europe – but with both finding form recently, it promises to be an entertaining encounter between two attack-minded teams at Anfield.
Antonio Conte surprised many by choosing to play against FK Qarabag without a recognised striker – a decision that ultimately paid dividends on Wednesday evening as they won 4-0. An attacking focal point could be needed, though, with Liverpool’s defensive frailties being a common theme this term, meaning the 3-5-1-1 that worked so well against Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion could well be adopted in this crucial game for the Blues.
Thibaut Courtois was largely a spectator in Azerbaijan following the early sending off and the Belgian has kept clean sheets in his last three games for the Blues.
The biggest call Conte has to make centres around David Luiz, who made an unexpected return at the heart of the Chelsea defence on Wednesday and the Brazilian looked assured in the back line. His know-how in big games could be called upon once more and he will most likely be flanked by Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill.
The fullback situation is easier to predict, with Davide Zappacosta in good form for the Blues and with Marcos Alonso coming off after 55 minutes in Azerbaijan, Conte clearly has the Spaniard in mind for this one.
Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to score a re-taken penalty and he will be charged with dictating play alongside N’Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko, who will be asked to simply win the ball back for Fabregas to play with.
Eden Hazard’s form of late has been incredible, with six goals in his last two games for the Blues – the Belgian looks back to his best.
Despite Willian’s brace on Wednesday, Alvaro Morata should get the nod in this crucial match, having been rested against FK Qarabag.
Predicted Starting XI
Where the Game Will Be Won or Lost
Chelsea have been solid in most of the big games this season, with their only defeat coming at the hands of the seemingly unstoppable Manchester City. Liverpool’s attacking talents are up there with the most potent in the league and if the Blues can nullify Coutinho, Salah, Mane and Firmino they will fancy their chances of causing many problems of their own though Hazard and Morata.
Both sides will be aware of the importance of this game and defeat for either side will all but rule them out of the title picture for the time being. Big games can often be cagey affairs and with so much at stake, it could be a moment of individual brilliance or a costly mistake that decides the outcome of the match.
Liverpool 1 – 1 Chelsea