Liverpool will be looking to avenge their midweek Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Chelsea when they square off against the Blues at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening.
The Reds were sent out of the Cup in the third round last season by Leicester City and ended up faring no better this year, making this the first time in nearly three decades that they’ve been knocked out of the League Cup at this stage in successive seasons.
Jurgen Klopp opted to give his reserves a go, with the likes of Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Nathaniel Clyne and Fabinho all starting, and after a goalless first half, it was the home side who drew first blood, with Daniel Sturridge scoring just before the hour mark.
Chelsea however equalised 20 minutes later through Emerson, with Liverpool’s desperate appeals for offside ruled out by VAR. The comeback was complete in the 85th minute when Belgian Eden Hazard, a second half replacement for Willian, scored a superb solo goal, beating Henderson, Fabinho, Keita and Moreno before smashing past Mignolet.
It was a goal worthy of beating Liverpool, who had a 100% record across all competitions coming into this game, and Klopp admitted as much after the final whistle.
The Reds have never beaten Chelsea at Anfield since May 2012 (the Blues fielded a weak team on that occasion as they were preparing for the Champions League final), and the quest to break that unwanted record will have wait for a few more months after Hazard’s stunner.
The focus now shifts to the league, with the two sides set to do battle again, but this time at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea’s 100% record was broken after a goalless draw against struggling West Ham at the London Stadium, while Liverpool were comfortable 3-0 victors over Mark Hughes’ Southampton.
A look at the Premier League predictions indicates that this will be a tightly fought affair. Liverpool are expected to bring back their big guns for this showdown, with Alisson and Virgil Van Dijk expected to provide the defensive stability that was missing in the League Cup clash.
Liverpool have opened a two point lead over the Blues in the league and could extend it to five this weekend if they emerge victorious at the Bridge. They’ve already had one tough away test- Tottenham at Wembley, and passed it with flying colours.
Chelsea are still a work in progress under Sarri, and their midfield, where the tireless N’Golo Kante has been deployed in an unfamiliar advanced role, contains weaknesses that could be exploited by more ruthless teams. West Ham had two or three clear cut chances, better than the ones the Blues had, and could’ve easily come away with three points had Michail Antonio or Andriy Yarmolenko put their scoring boots on.
Klopp would definitely prefer Liverpool to return to winning ways on Saturday with a tough trip to Napoli awaiting them after the Blues game, followed by a blockbuster home clash against Pep Guardiola’s Man City.
Chelsea v Liverpool kicks off at 17.30 BST on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.