Promising to be high on drama, Liverpool vs Chelsea is fast becoming one of the most anticipated encounters of the Premier League calendar. All set to renew their rivalry on Anfield, there is plenty at stake for two sides with the title race slipping out of sight.
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So, who are the main protagonists for either side?
The Statesman has picked the five clashes that are likely to decide the outcome of the tie on Saturday:
Jordan Henderson vs N’Golo Kante
Probably the most low-key clash among the others, this might just be the most important one.
Henderson has long been touted as Liverpool’s next great midfield general and it’s time for the Reds captain to stamp his authority on a high-profile game such as this.
With Liverpool arguably possessing one of the worst defences of the ‘top’ sides, Henderson’s job is an unenviable one as he has to shield the likes of Ragnar Klavan from Chelsea’s in-form forwards.
Mohamed Salah and co have been firing on all cylinders but they will require Henderson to keep spraying them passes and Kante will be the man seeking to break up Reds attacks and realising the likes of Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard.
While Henderson is among the most hard-working midfielders in the Premier League, there are none perhaps, who can claim to outrun Kante over the course of 90 minutes.
The diminutive Frenchman, who is likely to be partnered by compatriot Tiemoue Bakayoko, has a task on his hands for not only do Liverpool look dangerous when they break, Chelsea’s defence has been a bit suspect this season.
Dejan Lovren vs Alvaro Morata
A mismatch on paper, considering the vastly contrasting form of the aforementioned duo.
While Lovren has recovered from his Spurs debacle, one feels the in-form Morata is odds-on to win this duel.
Excellent in the air, but capable of turning opposition defenders with ease and possessing a lethal left and right foot both, Morata is in the conversation to be termed the Premier League’s signing of the summer.
Provided he gets the service from his midfield (And a certain Spanish defender!), Morata will fire and in the absence of Joel Matip, Lovren will be tasked with keeping an eye on him.
Chelsea hold the edge here, but will Lovren redeem himself by producing a defensive masterclass?
Philippe Coutinho vs Cezar Azpilicueta
Philippe Coutinho has been sparkling for the Reds and playing on the left hand-side of Liverpool’s midfield, he is likely to come up against Chelsea’s Mr Dependable aka Cezar Azpilicueta.
The Spaniard plays on the right-hand side of the Blues’ three-man defence and his clash with Liverpool’s wantaway midfielder will be an intriguing one.
Coutinho posses a booming shot but his vision is exemplary as well and the versatile Azpilicueta will be wary of the Brazilian’s threat.
Chelsea’s constant at the back, Azpilicueta’s biggest strength is his persistence and it’s difficult to beat him one-on-one.
Considering Coutinho loves to tie defenders in knots, their battle will make for interesting viewing come Saturday.
Mohamed Salah vs Marcos Alonso
Considering Salah’s terrific form, it is likely that left wing-back Marcos Alonso will require help from his teammates to shackle the Egyptian winger, who plays on the right in Liverpool’s front-three.
Pace is Salah’s best attribute and since Alonso doesn’t posses much of it, the Egyptian could run him ragged.
However, the fact that Alonso loves to bomb forward to devastating effect can mean two things.
- Either Salah will be forced to track back on multiple occasions and hence, could see his offensive output diminish.
2. Or, Alonso will leave gaping holes at the back, which Salah will exploit with glee.
With Conte the master of tactics, the latter is an unlikely scenario but then again, Liverpool are among the most sides in the English top-flight.
Alberto Moreno/James Milner/Andy Robertson vs Pedro
After Alberto Moreno’s shocker against Sevilla, his starting spot is no longer guaranteed.
Veteran James Milner is a contender to start, as is summer recruit Andy Robertson. With Milner naturally right-footed, Robertson would be the ideal choice to replace Moreno, but nothing is certain as of now.
Either way, the man who starts at right-back will be tasked with keeping a tab on Chelsea’s jet-heeled winger.
Pedro may not have hit the heights he was expected of him since his move from Barcelona, but the Spaniard is still a tricky customer and underestimating him could prove fatal.
His crosses from deep would be ideal for someone like Morata and expect the Reds to close him down without much delay.