Liverpool's first big test of the season comes on Sunday in the form of a trip to Stamford Bridge to face a Chelsea team capable of upsetting the Premier League leaders.
The Blues have been getting strong performances from a clutch of young talents led by prolific striker Tammy Abraham. He will attempt to continue his scoring run against a Liverpool defence made to look vulnerable during a 2-0 defeat away to Napoli in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
The Blues also lost in Europe on the same day, falling 1-0 to Valencia at home, a game during which precocious attacking midfielder Mason Mount had to be withdrawn with an injury. Manager Frank Lampard has alternatives to Mount, but he will be wary about how well a leaky defence copes with a Liverpool forward line led by free-scoring Sadio Mane.
Date: Sunday, September 22
Time: 4:30 p.m. BST/11:30 a.m. ET
TV Info: Sky Sports PL/NBCSN
- Chelsea: +260 (bet $100 to win $260)
- Liverpool: +100
- Draw: +265
Odds per Caesars.
Liverpool are the favourites for this one because Mane and Co. are facing a Chelsea defence that's conceded 11 goals through five league matches. It's an ominous sign ahead of facing Mane, who has four goals to his credit already, while strike partner Mohamed Salah has also found the net four times.
While Salah and Mane have been prolific, Roberto Firmino is the key to what the Reds do going forward. His flair, vision and perceptive movement create space and chances for those around him:
Controlling Firmino's influence will require ample protection in front of a back three fortified by the return from injury of Antonio Rudiger, as well as the emergence of the 21-year-old Fikayo Tomori.
Chelsea's defence will be guarded well if N'Golo Kante is fit enough to start. Lampard confirmed the Frenchman has been back in training following an ankle problem, per the club's official website.
The Blues manager also said Mount has "got a chance," per the same source. Although Willian, Pedro or Christian Pulisic could fill in, Mount's technique and willingness to shoot provide excellent support for the pace and efficiency of Abraham.
Having scored seven times in his past three league outings, the 21-year-old is the player Liverpool must be wary of, particularly after his hat-trick against Wolverhampton Wanderers last time out.
.@tammyabraham's hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Wolves saw him move joint-top of the top scorers chart in the Premier League and with a WhoScored rating of 9.34, the @ChelseaFC striker is our player of the week For more player stats -- https://t.co/Su3MR8J855 https://t.co/uQhnbZ7DtF
Liverpool would normally feel confident about keeping any striker under wraps thanks to a sturdy defence led by centre-back Virgil van Dijk. Yet the unit has shown signs of weakness recently, having conceded in all but one of their league games while goalkeeper Alisson Becker has been on the shelf with a calf injury.
Left-back Andy Robertson gave away a penalty in Naples, while Van Dijk was culpable for the Serie A outfit's second goal. A rare error aside, the Dutchman has been in impressive form at the start of the new campaign:
If the Liverpool defence can stand up to Abraham and Co. early on, Mane and Salah will make the difference to settle a tight game.