The Premier League is finally back and it is a tasty encounter at Merseyside in the curtain raiser fixture as Liverpool host Chelsea on the first matchday of the 2023/24 season. The teams have finished their respective pre-seasons and are all set to begin yet another busy footballing schedule.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have had a busy summer in terms of incomings, outgoings and the pre-season friendlies with the German wanting to rebuild his side after an underwhelming last season. The Reds have signed Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai to bolster their midfield which has seen the maximum number of changes as Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have headed to Saudi Arabia. They are still looking to bolster their midfield before the end of the transfer window with just 3 more weeks to go. A 3-1 win over newly promoted Bundesliga side Darmstadt saw the Reds cap off their friendly games which saw them suffer defeat just once which came against Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have also seen significant changes during the off-season as there is a new coach at the helm and plenty of new faces at the West London club. Mauricio Pochettino took over the reigns from interim manager Frank Lampard and has overseen a massive squad overhaul as the Blues have managed to offload 16 first team players. After a disappointing 12th place finish last season, the mood at Cobham has shifted and the squad seems to have found the right cohesion under Pochettino’s intense style of play whose glimpses were seen in the pre-season tour in the US.
When and where?
Date:- 13th August, 2023
Time:- 3:30 PM GMT
Venue:- Stamford Bridge
Referee:- Anthony Taylor
Assistants:- Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth Official:- David Coote
VAR:- Darren England
Assistant VAR:- Simon Benett
The hosts will be without their headline summer signing Christopher Nkunku as the Frenchman had his MCL torn during the pre-season ruling him out of action for 3 months. This is a huge blow for the Blues who had hoped to start the season with Nkunku after his stellar pre-season in the US with the squad. He joins his fellow Frenchman Wesley Fofana on the sidelines as the defender has undergone surgery for a ruptured ACL ruling him out of action until March. Armando Broja and Benoit Badiashile will also be unavailable for the Blues as the duo continue their road to recovery and should be fit to play by the end of the month.
Liverpool will have a fully fit squad to begin their season with as there were no new injury concerns throughout the course of their pre-season. Thiago Alacantra is a doubt for the game at the weekend as the Spaniard continues to recover from a hip injury which he picked up towards the end of last season. Luis Diaz has returned to full first team action and is in contention to start after recovering from a recurring knee ligament injury which kept him out of action for majority of the last season.
It is going to be Pochettino vs Jurgen Klopp and relentless footballing action for the whole 90 minutes. Both managers have adopted an intense pressing style which could mean end-to-end footballing action for the fans.
Pochettino will use his 4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1 hybrid system which he has adopted since the first game of the pre-season. This system has unlocked the potential of the attacking players at the club as Mykhailo Mudryk, Nicolas Jackson and Ian Maatsen have all thrived playing under this system. Maatsen, who is originally a left-back, has been deployed as a right winger/no.10 hybrid by Pochettino to use his intelligent man-marking and stamina to help the Blues press high up the pitch. The absence of Christopher Nkunku paves the way for Maatsen to get his first senior cap for the Blues even though Poch does have Carney Chukwuemeka and Conor Gallagher who can also play the no.10 role.
The new Pochettino system has also seen changes in the way the Blues defend off the ball as the Argentine has instructed the team to become narrower and compact to leave no room for the opposition to play through the center of the pitch. This has helped the Blues press more efficiently and play quick one-twos to start counterattacks using the pace of their forwards.
Klopp has reverted back to his usual 4-3-3 after experimenting with his system last season. Trent Alexander Arnold was given the responsibility of inverting and helping the Reds create a pivot last season but that doesn’t look like the case this season as the Englishman has been playing his usual right-back role. The new signings Alexis McAllister and Dominik Szoboszlai provide Klopp the tools to create chances from midfield something which the German lacked last season.
In the last pre-season game against Darmstadt, the Reds lined up with a very attacking starting XI which saw the likes of Mo Salah, Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota all starting together. This could be a new attacking frontline Klopp will want to experiment with as it gives the Reds more numbers up the pitch to engage their “gegen pressing” to win the ball high up the pitch and create chances.
It promises to be an entertaining affair this time around between the two sides after their last 4 meetings have ended in stalemates. Both the teams have the top 4 to compete for and starting off the season with a win would be the right step in that direction.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of a revelation for the Blues faithful during the pre-season as he has hit the ground running already. The Senegalese scored twice and provided 3 assists in 3 games during the tour in the US. His intelligent running off the ball to create space for teammates, ability to hold up play, dribbling and pace on the counterattacks makes him an all-round package which Pochettino can further develop. He will be up against a leaky Liverpool defence which conceded 11 goals in 5 games during the pre-season and it could be the right opportunity for Jackson to open his account in the Premier League in front of a fully packed Stamford Bridge.
The Egyptian will be Liverpool’s key player for the game against his previous employers as the 31-year-old looks like he has found his form again. He finished his pre-season with 2 goals and 7 assists in 5 games which sounds unfamiliar for an attacking player of Salah’s calibre. He has unlocked his creative side in the new Klopp system something which we could see more of this season. With 19 goals and 12 assists in 38 games last season, Salah has been the Reds’ most consistent player in the attacking department and scoring against the Blues at Stamford Bridge sounds feisty.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Sanchez, James, Colwill, Disasi, Chilwell, Enzo, Santos, Mudryk, Maatsen, Madueke, Jackson.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson, Alexander Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson, McAllister, Szoboszlai, Elliot, Salah, Gakpo, Diaz.