Written by: Daniel Ghorbal @danghorbal
After a comprehensive 4-1 victory against Norwich on Friday night, Liverpool travel to Istanbul to face rivals Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup, aiming to win the competition for the 4th time after competing in it on what will be the 6th occasion this Wednesday evening. Liverpool’s opponents Chelsea come into the game on the back of a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United, with Frank Lampard’s first game in charge at the club getting off to the worst possible start. Despite the score-line, Chelsea showed glimpses throughout the 90 minutes of what they have to offer, but at the end of the day, their lack of penetration in the final third paired with spells of sloppy defending opened up many questions in relation to Chelsea’s chances of doing well this season. Where are the goals coming from? Can Zouma and Christensen form a partnership that will prove to be successful at Stamford Bridge?
Throughout pre-season, Chelsea mostly operated with a 4-2-3-1 formation, one which served Frank Lampard well during his managerial reign at Derby County. Mason Mount, a man who served Lampard so well whilst on loan at Derby, was very bright in pre-season for the blues and was handed his debut at the club at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, rather surprisingly with fellow Englishman Ross Barkley in the line-up too. Both Ngolo Kante and Christian Pulisic were left on the bench, a brave selection by the manager but one that may be tactical with Wednesday’s Super Cup in mind, therefore I expect both to start this game, replacing Matteo Kovacic and Mason Mount in the side with Pedro and Pulisic operating as the more orthodox wingers. Lampard may have seen Liverpool’s game against Norwich and been encouraged by the amount of times the visitors were able to get in behind Alexander-Arnold, hence why Pulisic would certainly be the more likely option with his pace and tendency to attack the full-back. It is certainly something for Klopp to be wary of.
In addition to this, Ross Barkley was another player who shone in pre-season, scoring several goals and making many goals too, showing glimpses of his undeniable potential that he hasn’t really expressed at Chelsea as of yet. Barkley looked comfortable in the left-attacking midfield role against Manchester United however I suspect he may start against Liverpool in either a central midfield role/ central attacking midfield role, but Lampard may decide to opt for Matteo Kovacic who perhaps would add more steel and control in the middle. After his side’s 4-0 defeat on Sunday, the last thing he would want is another thrashing against a side more than capable of dismantling Chelsea. I have no doubt’s Jorginho and Kante will start the game, but Lampard has the option of Barkley, Mount or Kovacic as a third midfielder/more advanced midfielder, and his decision of who starts in that role is an important one.
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Defensively, Chelsea struggled to cope with the potency of United’s front line, especially Marcus Rashford who drew a penalty from Kurt Zouma and got in behind both Zouma and Christensen to score United’s third. After the deadline-day departure of David Luiz and injury to Antonio Rudiger, Lampard is limited for options in defence and the partnership we are likely to see again this Wednesday is one which has probably never been used before Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford.
Kurt Zouma had an impressive season on loan at Everton and thoroughly deserves a run in the side at Chelsea, however realistically, if Chelsea’s transfer ban wasn’t imposed, would he really be given the chance? The same applies to Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi etc. I have no doubts that for now, Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen is not the worst central defensive pairing to have, but by no stretch is it the best in the top 6 and Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane will be licking their lips about the prospect of facing defenders low on confidence.
Despite addressing Chelsea’s defence in such a manner, going forward is where I worry about them the most. Since joining the club, Eden Hazard was directly involved in 194 goals which was 90 more than anyone else during that time, but now he has left, the onus is on Pedro, Willian, Pulisic, Abraham etc to score the goals required to fire Chelsea to a successful campaign. Those players listed undoubtedly have qualities in abundance, but do they have Eden Hazard qualities? No. Tammy Abraham is a player I admired watching for Aston Villa as a fan of the Championship, an old-fashioned number 9 who scored the majority of his goals within the 6-yard box, and although he is young and promising, I have my doubts as to whether he has what it takes to score 15-20 goals in the Premier League, the best league in the World and ultimately a league he is unproven in.
For this game, I think Lampard will opt for Olivier Giroud, a more experienced player who’s ability to hold the ball up and bring other players into the game is second to none. I feel as if his strength and clever movement is more likely to bring joy to Chelsea as opposed to Abraham who would potentially be stifled and put off by the presence of Van Dijk. Lampard’s trust in his youth players is admirable though, so it wouldn’t surprise me if both Mount and Abraham were to start this game too.
Liverpool are most definitely the favourites heading into the game, but Chelsea cannot be written off and despite Sunday’s humiliating defeat, Lampard is a brave manager who will continue to take risks and selections that may be beneficial in the long-term. My prediction is Liverpool 3-1 Chelsea.
Written by: Daniel Ghorbal @danghorbal