Liverpool v Chelsea: Cagey contest awaits Anfield

The first mega match of the new Premier League season arrives on Saturday evening as Liverpool take on Chelsea at Anfield. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter...

Liverpool go two from two

Goals from Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane ensured Liverpool made it two Premier League wins from two with a 2-0 victory over Burnley at Anfield last Saturday. In what was a promising all-round performance by the Reds, captain Jordan Henderson returned to the starting XI, whilst teenager Harvey Elliott also impressed on his first Premier League start.

Jota opened the scoring in the 18th minute, heading past Nick Pope from Konstantinos Tsimikas' cross for his second goal in as many games. Mohamed Salah had the ball in the back of the net eight minutes later, but it was ruled out by VAR for offside and Jurgen Klopp's charges doubled their lead through a superb second-half Mane strike.

Speaking post-match, Klopp said: "In a lot of moments, we played a brilliant game without scoring. In all the other moments we had to fight incredibly hard. We won it and nobody got injured." The hosts are expected to have a full squad available with Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner up for selection after missing out against Burnley.

Lukaku inspires on Chelsea debut

Romelu Lukaku scored just 15 minutes into his second Chelsea debut to help the Blues to a comfortable 2-0 triumph at capital rivals Arsenal last time out. The Belgian, a £97.5m signing from Inter Milan, made an immediate impact with his hold-up and link-up play causing the Gunners problems all afternoon in a dominant display from the visitors.

Lukaku was involved in the build-up and then finished the move from close range from Reece James' pass to break the deadlock. James got the second himself as he slammed the ball home from Mason Mount's pass to make it two wins from two in the league. And Lukaku almost made it 3-0 but his header was tipped onto the bar by Bernd Leno.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel was understandably pleased post-match, saying: "It's a perfect start. We didn't concede and we have two victories. This being a London derby gives us lots of confidence. This is what you need, experiences together and good victories. There were moments where we suffered together. This is how a group is built."

Blues relish playing the big guns

Liverpool and Chelsea have crossed swords nine times since the beginning of 2018/19 with the Reds enjoying slight supremacy (W4-D2-L3). Looking at the head-to-head records since Jurgen Klopp arrived in Merseyside, the hosts have posted an impressive W6-D4-L2 return over the Blues, although Thomas Tuchel was victorious in his first fixture against Liverpool.

Liverpool 2.58 have suffered only two Anfield defeats against top-six finishers during Klopp's reign, averaging an eye-catching 2.20 points per-game in these crunch contests (W16-D7-L2). Both losses came last term during pandemic conditions without supporters - the aforementioned Tuchel tussle, as well as the Reds' 4-1 reverse to Man City.

Tuchel garnered major respect for his work in transforming Chelsea 3.00 from inconsistent mid-table fodder into Champions League winners since January and the Blues have relished their encounters with elite opposition. As well as turning Liverpool over here, the Londoners have overcome Man City on three occasions, Real Madrid, plus holding Man Utd to a draw.

Cagey contest awaits

Both sides are jam-packed with star quality in the final-third. Liverpool can boast a fully fit front four with all of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino already on the scoresheet for the Reds this season. Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku's arrival is arguably the missing piece in Chelsea's impressively-assembled squad.

Considering the attacking talent on show, Over 2.5 Goals 2.06 could be of interest to punters. It's proven profitable in 14/25 (56%) of Liverpool's home Premier League ties with top-six finishers under Jurgen Klopp. However, with so much at stake, plus Chelsea's penchant to keep matches tight under Thomas Tuchel, a cagey contest could play out.

The Blues saw four of their five league fixtures against the Big Six under Tuchel produce fewer than three goals, four of which also landed for Under 1.5 Goals backers. With the guests unlikely to stray away from their successful process, I'm happy to delve into the Bet Builder and support the Draw and Under 2.5 Goals at 3.65 in a must not-lose showdown.

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