A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s League Cup tie away to Liverpool.
This midweek sees the Third Round of the League Cup and Chelsea travel to face the league leaders Liverpool at Anfield. For the round in which the teams that have qualified for European football this season enter the competition, this match up of 2 of them was clearly the standout tie of the round. And in a strange quirk of timing, these 2 sides face each other just 3 days later at Stamford Bridge in their Premier League match.
So, as mouth watering a match up this is, the cup match will have their league tie looming large over their heads. From the starting line ups both Sarri and Klopp opt for, to how the players will approach certain parts of the match will all be led by thoughts on Saturday’s match.
We can expect both managers to rotate their teams from their weekend fixtures. But the key question will be by how much? In Europe last week Klopp made minimal changes to his starting line up as they beat PSG at Anfield. Meanwhile, Sarri made fewer changes than most expected as The Blues won away in Greece.
Liverpool then made easy work of keeping up their winning start to the season at home to Southampton in Saturday. Chelsea however had lost a little of their pace and intensity in attack as they drew away at West Ham United.
While the significance of Saturday’s match is key for both clubs even at this early stage of the season, how can we expect the 2 sides to line up on Wednesday? Klopp has stated that he will field a “really strong side”. Simon Mignolet has been confirmed to start in goal, but otherwise The Reds will still start with quite a few first choice starters. Sturridge, Gomez, Milner and Shaqiri may all make a start.
Meanwhile, surely Sarri will make more changes than he did at PAOK. The Italian will want the team he fields in the Premier League match on Saturday to be at their peak of fitness and intensity. To this end the manager will surely look deeper into his squad. Gary Cahill, Davide Zappacosta, Ross Barkley, Ethan Ampadu, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Alvaro Morata could all start.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Antonio Rudiger and Pedro are all doubts, but the latter 2 may be given extra recovery time anyway in order they may be utilised on Saturday.
These 2 back to back fixtures against Liverpool will be a great indicator as to how far The Blues have progressed this season under Sarri. Wednesday should give the manager the opportunity to assess the depth of his squad while Saturday could highlight how far The Blues are behind one of the two favourites to be crowned champions at the end of the season.
Victory and progression into the next round will be the aim for both sides, but this competition will be regarded as the least important to both clubs and their supporters. The side who progress will be hopeful of a successful and long run in the competition, while the other may be grateful for a slightly less congested fixture list.
However, for Sarri’s sake and all who follow The Blues, let’s hope it’s Chelsea who enjoy another run in the League Cup, starting with condemning Liverpool to their 4th consecutive loss in this competition.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue