Frank Lampard has insisted that this is not a “statement game” but rather just a challenging three points to earn, but should Chelsea win, it would most certainly be looked at as a massive statement in our ambitions to challenge for the Premier League title this season.
Should we lose, it would be further indication of just how much further we still have to go. It’s never great to make sweeping declarations based off single matches, but that won’t prevent anybody from doing so.
We did of course finish 33 points behind Liverpool last season, and most of our new signings are either injured or not yet settled, but we did play the Reds close on all four occasions, including the draw (and subsequent shootout loss) in the UEFA Super Cup, and actually beat them in the FA Cup fifth round on our way to the final.
That said, titles are not decided in game two of any season, so win or lose, it would indeed be just three points in this season’s title (or top-four) race.
Date / Time: Sunday, September 20, 2020, 16.30 BST; 11:30am EDT; 9pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Paul Tierney (on pitch); Michael Oliver (VAR)
Forecast: Warm and sunny!
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Chelsea team news: Injuries dominated the team news last season, and so far, the situation’s pretty much the same on the new season as well. Christian Pulisic (hamstring), Hakim Ziyech (knee), Ben Chilwell (heel), and Thiago Silva (fitness) will all miss this game, while both Timo Werner and Jorginho have had to deal with knocks from Monday’s game. Those two combined for Chelsea’s first goal of the season in that win 3-1 over Brighton, and will have to do something similar, though Jorginho could make way for Mateo Kovačić, who’s back from his one-match suspension.
While Chelsea won comfortably in the first game, it was far from a vintage performance and many players struggled, including most notably Ruben Loftus-Cheek, or were not nearly as effective as we imagine they will eventually be. Lampard opting to field an attacking trio of mostly central players (Mount, RLC, Havertz) is probably not something we’ll see too often.
And of course we had another questionable bit of goalkeeping from Kepa Arrizabalaga, which didn’t bite us this time but underlined the need for a new goalkeeper. But the Édouard Mendy transfer is still stuck in limbo, so we’ll have to roll the dice with Kepa or Caballero once again.
Liverpool team news: One week after Jürgen Klopp got all high and mighty and righteous and built himself and his team up on the moral highground of austerity in a pandemic, Liverpool have gone out and spent £60m in the last couple days (with probably just as much committed in wages as well) on Thiago Alcântara from Bayern Munich and Diogo Jota from Wolves. Thiago could even make his debut against us in this game, though like Thiago Silva, his opponent in his last match, the Champions League final, he might need a bit more time to get match-fit.
Otherwise, Liverpool are practically unchanged from the team that collected 99 points last year and won their first league title in 30 years (their first ever Premier League title in fact). Adam Lallana has been released and Dejan Lovren was booted out, while young full back Kostas Tsimikas arrived from Olympiacos.
Liverpool started the season with a 4-3 win over Biels-illy Leeds — Mohamed Salah with a hat-trick, including two goals from penalties — and have no new injuries of note. Xherdan Shaquiri has recently returned to training, but is not fit, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been dealing with a knee injury since preseason.
View from the enemy: The Liverpool Offside
Previously: Just prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, Chelsea and an inspired Evertonian, Ross Barkley beat Liverpool 2-0 in the FA Cup. We would then lose 5-3 at Anfield in the penultimate match of Project Restart, to go with the 2-1 loss at the Bridge this time last season, and the 2-2 draw in the UEFA Super Cup (5-4 loss on penalties) before that, last August.