After an historic couple years, including the 2019 Champions League and their first ever Premier League triumph (first league title in 30 years in fact), it’s hard to not call last season a disappointment for Liverpool: only third place in the league (lowest points total for five years), early round exits from both domestic cups, and losing in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
A lot of that had to do with a rather alarming number of injuries, especially in defense, but some of those results also brought an age-old conundrum back into focus. How long do you keep the core of a successful team together, and do you look to change it proactively when the going is still good, or just reactively when things start to go downhill?
For Liverpool, the answer is firmly the latter. The signing of Ibrahima Konaté addresses defensive depth, but the squad is little-changed otherwise. Virgil van Dijk is back. Gini Wijnaldum’s gone (which may be a bigger problem than they might expect). Otherwise, it’s all the same, which isn’t bad (Salah and Mané and Firmino and Jota are very, very far from “bad”), but it might be a bit stale.
That said, they’re off to a perfect start, and, as we head into the international break, will be looking to keep that going against a Chelsea team still just in the process of closing that proverbial gap.
Date / Time: Saturday, August 28, 2021, 17.30 BST; 12:30pm EDT; 10pm IST
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool, England
Referee: Anthony Taylor (on pitch); Chris Kavanagh (VAR)
Forecast: a nice day, actually, partial sunshine and warm temperatures
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBC, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport MaXimo 1, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); Peacock, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Liverpool team news: Left back Andy Robertson could be back from a preseason ankle injury to make his first appearance of the season, but James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are expected to miss out.
Like Chelsea, Liverpool have recorded wins of 3-0 and 2-0 on the season so far, with the fab four forwards scoring all five goals between themselves (Diogo Jota with two, the rest with one each). Teenage midfielder Harvey Elliott, 18 made his first Premier League start for the club last weekend. He still holds the record for the youngest Premier League player ever, making his debut with Fulham in May 2019 aged 16 years and 30 days.
View from the enemy: The Liverpool Offside
Chelsea team news: We will be without Christian Pulisic and Kurt Zouma for this trip, with the former finishing out his COVID isolation protocol and the latter finishing up his transfer to West Ham United. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has recently returned to training, and young Harvey Vale has been pulled up from the U23s to make up some numbers — though I doubt either would feature in this game.
Chelsea’s perfect start has been powered by most of the same things we saw last season under Tuchel, though the addition of Romelu Lukaku does change the attacking outlook for the better. And we certainly saw that against Arsenal last week, even if that match also confirmed that our midfield is just not the same without N’Golo Kanté. Both of those guys will have to be at the top of their games to get all three points at Anfield.
Previously: It was early days for Tuchel, but our 1-0 win back in March was also indicative of the successes we would achieve a few months later. Mason Mount got the game’s only goal after rinsing Fabinho, while Hakim Ziyech had one cleared off the line and Timo Werner saw one ruled out for a microscopic armpit offside that probably would not be called offside by this year’s version of VAR. (Probably.)