Sadio Mane #19 of Liverpool is pursued by Cesar Azpilicueta #28 of Chelsea during the 2016
International Champions Cup at Rose Bowl on July 27, 2016 in Pasadena, California.
The rivalry between Chelsea and Liverpool brewed during the years of Jose Mourinho’s first stint at Stamford Bridge and has hit it’s peak over the course of the past decade. However Friday’s showdown between the two English giants will write a new chapter in the history of the fixture with the clash of two managerial heavyweights in Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp.
Conte emerged victorious when the two sides locked horns in an International Champions Cup encounter during pre-season when the Blues won 1-0. Both sides come into Friday’s match at the back of a positive start to their Premier League season and will be keen on extending their good run. Here are some key battles that could well dictate which team will take home the three points at the end of the day.
Eden Hazard vs Nathaniel Clyne
Ever since he made the switch to Stamford Bridge, Hazard has never failed to wreck havoc when he’s taken the field for Chelsea against Liverpool. Even during last season, when he endured a torrid spell of form for the Blues, he managed to turn up trumps against the Reds. So his battle against arguably one of Liverpool’s more consistent players in Nathaniel Clyne should be an interesting watch on Friday.
Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool celebrates victory after the International Champions Cup match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on August 6, 2016 in London, England.
Since his arrival from Southampton, Clyne has made the right-back spot his own and has put in his shift of work week-in and week-out through a fixture-heavy 2015-16 campaign for the Reds. An in-form Hazard is a major source of creativity for Conte’s Chelsea and Clyne’s ability to shut him out at his area of the park will go some way into dictating the final result at the end of 90 minutes.
Chelsea’s Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa runs with the ball during the English Premier
League football match between Swansea City and Chelsea at The Liberty Stadium in Swansea, south Wales on September 11, 2016.
Hazard likes to dribble past defenders, and with his trickery can cause the back-four considerable amount of problems. There is no question he’ll prove to be a handful for Clyne.
Diego Costa vs Joel Matip
Signing Matip from Schalke 04 in the recently concluded transfer window was probably among Liverpool’s best pieces of business. The Cameroonian arrived as a free transfer and is already proving to be a good fit in that Reds back-line, helping solidify their often laughably leaky defence.
Having put in positive performances against Burton Albion, Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City in recent weeks, a line-up led by a ‘goal-hungry’ Diego Costa will prove to be Matip’s biggest test since his arrival at the club. Diego Costa, along with Mikhail Antonio, leads the goal-scoring charts with 4 strikes to his name.
The Spanish international has been instrumental in scoring the winner/equaliser in three of the Blues’ 4 Premier League games this season. And with Matip’s sole clean-sheet with the Reds coming against Championship side Burton, he is sure to have his work cut-out against an in-form Costa. The involvement of Dejan Lovren is still a doubt and if Lucas is once again called upon to don the centre-back role, there will be a significant burden on Matip’s shoulders to deliver the goods.
Sadio Mane vs Cesar Azpilicueta
There have been few summer signings as good and impactful as Sadio Mane has been for Liverpool. The Senegalese forward has added a different dimension to the Reds’ attack, injecting pace, creativity and more sting in the attacking third. Initially, a number of fans ridiculed the near club-record £34 million fee Liverpool paid Southampton to acquire his services. However, 3 Premier League games and a cup clash later, fans are already beginning to idolize the 24-year-old attacker.
Mane’s pace and work ethic have terrorized defences so far in the Premier League and his battle with Cesar Azpilicueta in the flanks will be one to watch out for on Friday. Azpilicueta isn’t the fastest full-backs in the business and the Spaniard will definitely have his work cut-out trying to keep the Senegalese at bay.
The aforementioned stats reveal that in Mane, Liverpool pose Chelsea with a Hazard-sized threat and will look to make the most of it against a compact Antonio Conte side.
Jurgen Klopp vs Antonio Conte
In what will be the first competitive match between the two bosses since they took their bows in the Premier League, the showdown between Klopp and Conte will be quite a treat for neutrals. Both remarkably eccentric managers lay emphasis on hard work, work ethic and tactics to ensure the success of their respective sides. It’ll be interesting to see how they manage to out do each other on Friday.
An in-form Hazard could spell further troubles for an already grim-looking season for Swansea
Conte managed to draw first blood a couple of months ago when his side beat Klopp’s Liverpool 1-0 in the International Champions Cup. The Italian’s team played some compact football through the course of the 90 minutes giving the Reds considerably less attempts at goal. The German will look at the game as a precursor to what kind of approach he can expect from the Chelsea side and will have to line-up his Reds accordingly.
Klopp has happy memories of Stamford Bridge having come away with an emphatic 3-1 victory when he visited Jose Mourinho’s beleaguered side in October. Things are a lot different now with Chelsea looking lot more like a title defending side that they should have been in the 2015-16 campaign.