Where will the huge clash between title contenders Chelsea and Liverpool be won and lost this weekend?
Chelsea and Liverpool lock horns on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge just a few days after the Blues won at Anfield in the League Cup courtesy of a late comeback and a stunning winner from Eden Hazard.
Let’s focus on the three key individual battles as two unbeaten teams go head-to-head as table-toppers Liverpool aim to make it seven wins from seven in the Premier League, while Chelsea aim to leapfrog them in the standings.
Eden Hazard vs. Jordan Henderson
This is the key battle of the game. Yes, you could say Hazard’s battle with either Liverpool full back (Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson) would be key, but he is likely to float about the pitch underneath Olivier Giroud up top. That’s where Henderson, Liverpool’s captain, comes into this. Alongside James Milner he will look to provide a shield to Liverpool’s defense but with N'Golo Kante and Jorginho pulling the strings and pushing Chelsea forward, they must stop Hazard popping up in dangerous spots centrally and getting between the midfield and defensive lines. What a battle this should be.
Marcos Alonso vs. Mohamed Salah
Drifting in from the right flank is what Salah loves to do and this Saturday will be no different. Although he started centrally in the win over Southampton last weekend, he’s more influential cutting in from a wide role. If he does drift to the right he may find plenty of space as Marcos Alonso loves to bomb on from left back and join the attack. The Spaniard will have to be more disciplined defensively in Chelsea’s flat back four as Salah will look to drag him inside and out of position for Alexander-Arnold to get up the field.
David Luiz vs. Roberto Firmino
An all-Brazilian battle will be intriguing to keep an eye on, as David Luiz has had a fine start to life under new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri but he and Antonio Rudiger are still a little susceptible to pace and movement in-behind them. Firmino will provide exactly that with his clever flicks and incisive runs and he will look to turn Luiz as much as possible early on with Salah and Sadio Mane buzzing around him. Luiz has to win the physical battle but not get too carried away. The moment he mistimes a challenge or steps up too high, Firmino will punish him.