It’s the biggest game of the season and a real Super Sunday to look forward this weekend when Chelsea host Liverpool in the 4.30pm kick-off.
Now that was a slightly tongue in cheek comment, as we are only into our second game week.
However, this certainly does feel like it will be a game where we will learn much about both sides’ strengths for the coming year.
Chelsea have an exciting new forward line that is waiting to be unleashed when Hakim Ziyech is deemed fully fit. He will surely join Timo Werner and Kai Havertz in enabling Chelsea to counter-attack with complete devastation and time will tell how quickly these new players will adapt to the Premier League.
Werner was quoted as being surprised at how big and strong Brighton’s defenders were on Monday.
The German striker better get used to the rough treatment as I for one can’t imagine the Lewis Dunks of this world being very happy with him bursting past them with his searing pace. The challenge for The Blues will being finding a way to use his speed effectively.
This brings me on to Monday night’s very peculiar tactical set up versus Brighton. Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Chelsea goal was clearly being instructed to kick the ball long, as he did so 67% of the time with his distribution when both full backs were open and in a lot of space on several occasions.
I don’t believe Lampard was afraid of Brighton’s press as such, but was instead looking at it as preparation for Sunday’s visit of the team who press the hardest and most efficiently in all of world football.
Chelsea were not particularly impressive, they were outshot by Brighton 13-10 and saw less of the ball than the home side. They lost the xG 1.44 – 1.27, and while it is wrong to draw too many conclusions from one game, the worrying statistic of Kepa conceding goals from outside the box continued.
He has conceded 19 since he arrived at Chelsea, which is the most of any keeper in the league. He is proving to be an expensive liability as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper.
Liverpool forwards must be getting excited for this one….
One year ago we saw Liverpool begin the campaign in spectacular fashion, conceding just 15 goals in their opening 26 matches – an average of just 0.58 per game. In statistical terms they were outperforming all key performance metrics all over the pitch and naturally a regression was to be expected.
However, in terms of their defensive solidity, since February’s match against West Ham they’ve let in 21 goals in just 13 league matches, which is an average of 1.62 per game. Maybe teams finally got to grips with how to get at Jurgen Klopp’s backline.
This trend continued in their pre-season where in four matches they averaged 1.25 goals conceded, which ended by losing the Community Shield on penalties to Arsenal.
Of course, pre-season is pre-season and means little as such, but the way Leeds United got at this backline last weekend surely must raise some concerns for Liverpool fans. Leeds scored 3 goals from an xG of 0.27, which is staggering.
Some of the defending seen was not what we have come to expect from the Reds and will give the boys from the Kings Road much food for thought.
Few sides are going to be able to match a Marcelo Bielsa team’s press this season and I for one highly doubt Chelsea will even attempt to press that high for fear of leaving their back line exposed. The defensive weakness of Lampard’s men is well known, they conceded in every match versus last season’s top 6 teams – excluding themselves of course.
That’s goals home and away to Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd and even Leicester. Arsenal scored in both fixtures and Spurs scored in the home leg at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea’s games averaged 3.24 goals last season and that carried on into this season with a 3-1 win on Monday night.
Everything is pointing to goals here and now let’s take a look a few betting angles.
I’m expecting there to be action on both sides of the scoreboard. The way Liverpool have been defending for months now is pointing to towards goals and we just can’t trust Chelsea to keep it out of the onion sack either.
At the prices it makes sense to side with Chelsea. For all their defensive weaknesses, they did beat Man City at home and that proved they can get it done against last season’s big two.
Mohamed Salah scored a fine second goal last week among the hat-trick he plundered against a game Leeds outfit and looked Liverpool’s shining star. Klopp will be advising his men to shoot on sight should Kepa start in the sticks, so expect Salah to do it early, often and accurately.
Gomez to be booked looks a nice play should the game play out as offensively-minded as I expect. Timo Werner’s blistering pace could cause problems for the weaker of Liverpool’s two centre-backs and he could well end up in the referee’s notebook.
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