By: Adam Reckamp
Both Chelsea and Liverpool enter Friday night’s match at Stamford Bridge flying high.
While Chelsea slightly stumbled last week with a draw against Swansea, they are unbeaten under new manager Antonio Conte and appear rejuvenated after the absolute debacle which was their title defense last season. Conte’s switch to a fluid 4-3-3 system with newcomer N’golo Kante anchoring the defensive midfield has breathed new life into the team.
Oscar, no longer forced into the center attacking midfield role that never looked natural for him, has been allowed to play the number eight role, a more sort of box to box style which has done wonders for his game. While his 2015-2016 season was disappointing to say the least, Eden Hazard has resumed his world class form under Conte, creating opportunities with his incredible dribbling and giving Chelsea the creativity they need in the final third.
But no doubt the most important part of Chelsea’s resurgence this season has been the dominant play by fiery striker Diego Costa. Costa, a player emblematic of the attitude of Chelsea Football Club, has found incredible form this season, with 4 goals in 4 games this season. His overhead bicycle kick to earn Chelsea a point against Swansea was the spectacular, and really highlighted what has been an incredible start for the controversial striker. When Costa focuses his temper and aggression productively, he is arguably the best striker in the Premier League and a locked in Costa should strike fear into Liverpool.
Speaking of Liverpool, their start to the season has been impressive. Boasting one of the harder opening fixture lists in the league, Liverpool have recorded victories at Arsenal, and vs Leicester City, and drew at White Hart Lane.
Liverpool has played great attacking football this season, and is tied for second in the Premier League in goals scored, with nine goals in four games. The most notable addition at Liverpool this season has been Senegalese forward Sadio Mane. Mane, while not a big name, has found quick success this season in Jurgen Klopp’s high pressing style, scoring two goals for Liverpool already this season. Liverpool’s forwards as a whole have found great success, with 14 goals between them in the first five games of this campaign, across all competitions.
The success of both teams offensively foreshadows what should be a high octane game Friday night, at what is sure to be a rocking Stamford Bridge. While the wine and cheese crowd often shows up for Premier League Saturdays at Chelsea, night games at Stamford Bridge are always incredible atmospheres.
While many would expect a Chelsea team to play a more conservative style in such a big game, something common under Mourinho teams and a style Conte often adopts, this game is different. Chelsea have had a shaky defense all season, and with the injury to John Terry, David Luiz should make his Chelsea return at centre back. The lack of a solid, experienced defense, as well as playing at home and the confidence the side has shown all season, should lead Chelsea to play more attacking football than they have in the past.
With Chelsea inserting Luiz into the starting lineup and playing more open football, Liverpool should have a chance to win all three points at Stamford Bridge, expect them to take it. But Liverpool have had a shaky defense all season, and unlike Chelsea, don’t have a dominant defensive midfield to cover up for their mistakes. At home led by a brace from the sizzling hot Diego Costa, expect a Chelsea team soaring with confidence to grab all three points, earning them a spot atop the table for the first time in over a season.
Prediction: Chelsea 3 Liverpool 1
(Featured Image: Ben Sutherland, Flickr)