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Tuchel looking forward to ‘stress test’ against Liverpool, Van Dijk

Pre-match thoughts from the Chelsea head coach

Chelsea Training Session Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Chelsea’s biggest test by far in this early season will be tomorrow’s trip to Anfield to take on Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who have made an excellent start to the Premier League, just as we have. (In fact, we have the identical record after the first two games: 2 wins, 5 goals scored, 0 conceded.)

It’s a “huge” test, according to UEFA Men’s Coach of the Year Thomas Tuchel, who will have a nearly full squad to choose from — Christian Pulisic (COVID isolation) and Kurt Zouma (impending transfer) are the only ones expected to be missing the trip.

“Liverpool had a good start and we had a good start. Tomorrow we will fight from the first minute to get a good result, but it will be a huge challenge and no result will be a decision for the season.

“But of course we are fighting for it because this is the challenge where you need to prove, but we also want to prove ourselves.”

Friendly match”Netherlands v Belgium”

Liverpool’s failure to keep up with champions Manchester City last season was in a big part due to injuries, none bigger than Virgil van Dijk’s ACL. After almost an entire year of recovery the defender is back with a vengeance, and his personal duel with Romelu Lukaku will go some ways towards determining tomorrow’s result.

“I’m looking forward to it, and I think many fans of football are looking forward to that battle. But it’s not only Lukaku versus Van Dijk, it’s Liverpool against Chelsea.

“Of course also for Romelu it’s a big challenge. He’s had one match with us which was pretty impressive and a good start and from now on we are into details and adapting and to connecting better and better. The stress test is on tomorrow at Anfield, and we will see.

“But when we signed him we knew we were getting a very experienced player, in terms of playing big matches. He loves these kinds of stages and that’s why I expect the best we can see from him right now. I’m not sure he has yet reached top level, maybe not, because he only has one game in his legs. But he will have a good match tomorrow, because he loves to play in these types of matches, he’s a tough competitor, and against strong opponents.”

Arsenal v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

But Tuchel’s also confident that Chelsea can not only compete, but repeat our 1-0 victory from March, which was barely a month into his tenure at the club.

“It is a different Liverpool than without Van Dijk [and] it is a huge upgrade to last March and spectators too, they will be a big factor at Anfield so we will not be able to hear ourselves or maybe communicate as easily as it was without spectators.

“At the same time, we also feel very confident as we have known each other longer and have good experiences together and feel we can fight on this level.”

-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London

No team’s ever won or lost a league in the third match of a season. Win or lose, it will be important to keep that bigger picture in mind.

But if we talk about things like closing the gap and making a run at the title, these are the sorts of games that will be looked at for signs of progress and how well we’re doing in those intentions.