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Neither team has conceded a goal yet this season, but that is likely to change for at least one of them on Saturday. It is hard to pick a winner between two fantastic sides, so instead go for over 2.5 goals at odds of +100.
|Liverpool vs Chelsea Information|
|Teams||Liverpool vs Chelsea|
|Location||Anfield, Liverpool, England|
|Time||Saturday, 28 August 2021, 12.30 PM EDT|
|How to watch||NBC Sports|
Manchester City paid a British record transfer fee to sign Jack Grealish. Chelsea broke their transfer record to re-sign Romelu Lukaku seven years after he departed Stamford Bridge. Manchester United forked out $100 million on Jadon Sancho and more than $50 million on Raphael Varane. They are now battling Manchester City for the signature of Cristiano Ronaldo, who looks set to leave Juventus before the transfer window closes on Tuesday.
Compared to their potentially Premier League title rivals, Liverpool have had a quiet summer. Ibrahima Konate is the only new face at Anfield, and the former RB Leipzig’s center-back is not guaranteed to be a regular starter this season. Liverpool have had some success in tying down key players to new contracts, and Jurgen Klopp could benefit from having a relatively settled side. But many Reds fans wanted to see more activity in this summer’s market, even though they recognize the club is operating under more constraints than the likes of Chelsea and the two Manchester sides.
It is something of a cliché, but Virgil van Dijk feels like a new signing. The Dutchman missed most of last season with an ACL injury – and his absence was costly. True, Liverpool’s defense looked wobbly even when Van Dijk was fit, as Aston Villa showed in that astonishing 7-2 victory over the then-champions early on. Yet while Liverpool initially responded well to the loss of the Netherlands international, they could not keep it up. It is fair to say Klopp’s side would have done much more than scrape into the top four had Van Dijk been available all season.
The good news for Liverpool is that the imperious center-back does not seem to have suffered any after-effects from his knee injury. Van Dijk has made a terrific start to the new season, and while Lukaku will pose a stiffer challenge on Sunday than the strikers of Norwich City and Burnley managed, his return to the side means Liverpool must be taken seriously as title contenders.
As for Lukaku, he announced his return to the Premier League with a bang last weekend. It was not just that the striker scored the opening goal in Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Arsenal, although that certainly helped. His all-around performance was what made people sit up and take notice: Lukaku held the ball up, brought his teammates into play, sprinted in behind the defense, and dropped deep into the right-hand channel. In other words, it was a brilliantly well-rounded center-forward performance.
Chelsea won the Champions League last season and gained more Premier League points than any other team but Manchester City after Thomas Tuchel took charge. But the German did not look entirely satisfied with a system that had to make use of Kai Havertz as a false nine. The former Bayer Leverkusen attacker is capable of playing that role, but he is more effective slightly deeper. The likes of Havertz, Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech, and Christian Pulisic will all benefit from having Lukaku as a fixed reference point ahead of them.
Chelsea were authoritative at the Emirates Stadium last weekend, dominating the first half before easing off after the interval while still retaining full control of the match. The Blues are rated as the second-favorites to win the title by most bookmakers, and that feels like an accurate tag. With Lukaku in the team, Chelsea will take some stopping.
It is hard to pick a winner for this match. Liverpool have looked back to their best so far this season, although it should be said that the fixture computer has been kind. Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota have looked sharp up front, Trent Alexander-Arnold is as creative as ever, and Van Dijk is one of the few central defenders in the division who will not get physically bullied by Lukaku. With Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson fit again, Liverpool are close to getting their strongest XI on the field again.
Chelsea’s display against Arsenal was a statement of intent, and Lukaku will not fear a duel with Van Dijk. The Blues have considerable strength in depth in attack, and the options available to Tuchel from the bench could swing this game in the visitors’ favor. Chelsea have looked just as solid at the back as Liverpool in the early weeks, with their three-man defense continuing to impress.
Instead of trying to pick a winner, focus on the total goals market. With the attacking quality that will be on the pitch on Saturday, odds of +100 on three or more looks like a steal. Make sure you do not miss out.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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