Chelsea three key clashes vs. Liverpool: The midfield war

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chelsea,kepa arrizabalaga

Chelsea’s Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga (C) saves a shot from Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (L) during the English FA Cup fifth round football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London on March 3, 2020. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Chelsea welcomes Liverpool for this season’s home opener. After winning just one of four matches last year, the Blues hope the new signings can play a part.

People often say that there are no easy games in the Premier League; they don’t get harder than those against the defending champions. Chelsea welcomes a daunting Liverpool side who will be looking for a big win following a shaky start against the newly promoted Leeds United. Chelsea, meanwhile, cruised into the new season with a win over Brighton and will be hoping to keep that form going. Last time these two sides faced each other it was the team in red who claimed the three points after an exhilarating 5-3 affair. It might be hard to believe, but this Sunday’s clash promises to be even more exciting than that. Here are the key clashes that might just make that so:

1. Kepa Arrizabalaga vs. the Liverpool attack

Chelsea fans will be praying that by some miracle Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell are fit in time for Sunday’s match. Unfortunately, it looks incredibly unlikely either will feature, at least not in a starting capacity. Instead, the Blues will once again rely on Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen to hold the line. Behind them is the most unpopular man in SW6—Kepa Arrizabalaga. With the arrival of Edouard Mendy all but confirmed, this truly is last chance saloon for the Spaniard. Holding on to his place will take a monumental effort this Sunday. He is, after all, faced with shutting out the most fearsome attack in the league.

The trinity of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino scored 57 goals last season across all competitions—the former two carrying the bulk of that haul. The man in-form is none other than the Egyptian king, Salah. In the opening game of the season, the winger bagged a hat–trick (albeit including a pair of penalties). On top of this, he had nine shots throughout the match, bringing Liverpool’s total to 22.

If Arrizabalaga’s save percentage (54.5 percent) from last season is anything to go by, it’s going to be a long afternoon. If things don’t seem bleak enough, let’s remind ourselves that the champions put five past Chelsea’s No.1 back in July. On the bright side, Sunday offers a chance for Chelsea’s back line to stake their claim for a place in the starting line-up. After all, Silva and Chilwell are coming, so at least things are looking up.

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