Chelsea and Liverpool have made excellent starts to the season, which sets up a mouth-watering clash at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (17:30 BST, live on BT Sport).
Chelsea emerged victorious in a meeting between weakened versions of the two sides in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, with late goals from Emerson and substitute Eden Hazard seeing them reverse Daniel Sturridge’s opener to progress to the next round.
In the Premier League, recent encounters between them have been very even, with a win apiece and two draws over the last couple of seasons, and two wins apiece and four draws over the last eight. Only one of the wins for either side was by more than a single goal.
Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri has, however, been quick to admit that despite an unbeaten start to the league season he doesn’t yet view his side as being on Liverpool’s level. While he has been encouraged by what he has seen to date, he views Liverpool as a settled and well-developed side that it will take at least a year for his Chelsea team to match.
Sarri arrived at Chelsea on the back of three impressive seasons at Napoli and has quickly sought to implement the same intense, possession-based approach he used there. His players seem to be taking well to the switch from a more defensive alignment under previous coach Antonio Conte, but they are understandably still getting to grips with Sarri’s methods.
After five consecutive victories, the first stumble of Chelsea’s campaign came in a 0-0 draw away to West Ham last weekend. They struggled to progress the ball forward through midfield and get Hazard on the ball in good areas. West Ham defended well, and as is often the case, shackling Hazard largely equated to shackling Chelsea as an offensive force.
That is something that should be solved with time, as Sarri’s tactics are very much based around patterns of movement that create space almost regardless of the players involved. At this early stage of his tenure, it is something that opponents will look to take advantage of.
Liverpool’s focus is, however, more likely to be on their own strengths. While they are sure to make some allowances for Hazard, as most teams do, they will be confident of imposing their own style of play on the game and feeding a strike force that continues to rack up goals. After 91 goals in all competitions last season, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have already scored 10 goals in seven matches this time around.
Jurgen Klopp has received particularly strong backing in the transfer market over the last couple of seasons and now seems to have formed a side capable of sustaining a season-long challenge for the Premier League title. Six wins out of six, including victory away at Tottenham Hotspur, have made them the early pace-setters, and while reigning champions Manchester City still loom large in the rear view mirror, Liverpool has themselves a formidable team.
Defence was the major weakness of Klopp’s side in the early part of last season, but after conceding 16 times in their first nine matches, they were able to stabilise things and record the best defensive record in the league (22 conceded in 29 matches) from there on out. That has continued into the new campaign, with just two goals conceded to date.
Man City probably still have a slight edge on them in terms of attacking output. They did, after all, score 22 more goals last season. At this early stage, Liverpool appear close enough at both ends of the pitch to realistically be in with a shout of claiming their first league title in nearly three decades.
Sarri is right to say that Liverpool are currently a better team than his Chelsea side, and while Saturday’s match is sure to be well-contested, it is Liverpool who can be fancied to secure the win that would maintain their perfect start to the season.
Our Preview’s Chelsea vs. Liverpool Betting Tips Verdict
- Back Liverpool to win @ best odds of 31/20 (that’s just over 6/4) with BetVictor.