Premier League: Liverpool-Chelsea, woe to the losers
Accustomed to heights, Liverpool (9And) and Chelsea (10And) are level on points in the Premier League’s underbelly after a very mixed start to the season. Their confrontation this Saturday (1.30pm) could plunge one or the other into a crisis.
Liverpool-Chelsea, shock at the top of the 21st day of the Premier League? Vulgar competition with a soft belly, one would rather say looking at the rankings of the two teams. If the billboard has something to dream of on paper, with a heavy passive and a myriad of world stars, it is clear that neither the Reds (9th) nor the Blues (10th) particularly enchant football fans this season.
Fragmented results, mediocre quality of play, internal turmoil… On the banks of the Mersey as well as the Thames, the atmosphere does not bode well. These two big Europeans are not in their place, stuck with 28 points in the middle of the standings, between Brentford and Aston Villa. Far, far away from their usual competitors, Arsenal and the two Manchesters. On Saturday (1.30pm), the underdog could really sink into a slump.
Rossi not spared from injuries
Liverpool’s season had started in the best possible way. A trophy in late July, the Community Shield, won against rival Manchester City. What to recover from the Champions League final lost at the Stade de France against Real Madrid in May (0-1). But behind it, the Reds are off to a slow start in the league and never do better than a 6And square. October is black, with seven points out of eighteen possible. We believe the machine finally launched with a full box in November-December, but 2023 is off to a bad, very bad start. The two consecutive defeats against Brentford (3-1) and Brighton (3-0) put the team in doubt. Not forgetting Manchester City’s elimination of the EFL Cup (3-2).
Some will argue that this is still one less competition for this too-small workforce to handle. German coach Jürgen Klopp has had to contend with countless injuries. Ibrahima Konaté, Arthur Melo, Luis Diaz, Roberto Firmino, James Milner, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Thiago Alcantara, Virgil Van Dijk… Many names have gone to the infirmary for more or less long periods, some still recovering .
Difficult to be competitive on all fronts. “It’s really, really, really really hard. It makes match planning really difficult.”, afflicts Klopp at the end of December. The only ray of sunshine on the bulletin board: the Champions League. After a bitter early defeat in Naples (4-1), Mohamed Salah’s teammates sealed five consecutive victories, enough to secure qualification for the round of 16.
Read alsoPremier League: Klopp, seven years at home
Cleaning at the Blues
The Champions League is also what saves Chelsea’s season for the moment. Four victories in six matches, two of which against the formidable Milan, and brilliantly secured first place in the group. The opening defeat in Zagreb cost Thomas Tuchel his job, just a year and a half after the German coach managed to lift the trophy, the second ‘big eared cup’ in the club’s history. With results certainly below expectations but not catastrophic either, his eviction seems rather to be part of the big cleanup carried out by the new owner, Todd Boehly.
The American businessman took over the London club to replace Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. And he invested a lot of money. 300 million euros over the summer, on Wesley Fofana, Marc Cucurella, Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly or even Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Enough to build a very qualitative nursery which the new coach, Graham Potter, who arrived from Brighton, has not yet managed to exploit. The team was 6And of the Premier League when Tuchel was sacked. He is now 10 years oldAnd.
And the leaders put their hands in their pockets, slamming around 100 million on the Ukrainian Mykhaylo Mudryk, 38 on the French defender Benoît Badiashile, and 11 on a simple loan from the Portuguese crack Joao Felix. Will the salvation of the Blues come from the transfer market? It’s not the Liverpool bosses who answer in the affirmative. They probably already regret the astronomical sum spent this summer on Darwin Nunez, the Uruguayan striker who hasn’t forgotten the departure of Sadio Mané for Bayern Munich.
On one side or the other, redemption will pass through play, state of mind, combativeness. All that has made the soul of these two great teams. On Saturday, the winner of the Anfield duel could really start her season. The other may not recover.