Liverpool face Chelsea at the right time, and Thomas Tuchel’s ‘stupid’ problem could secure victory
Liverpool will be eager to bounce back immediately following the shock 1-0 loss to Leicester.
Any manager or player will admit that one of the best ways to overcome a loss is to win the next game. For Liverpool that means winning against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
It’s not the most ideal match to overcome a crushing defeat, but it might be the perfect time to take on Thomas Tuchel and his men.
Chelsea’s form have plummeted over the past two months and, like Liverpool, have fallen behind Man City in the title race. The pursuers are now eight and nine points behind City respectively (although Liverpool have a game in hand) and their title challenges appear to be fading just before the start of the new year.
So why is this the perfect time to play for Chelsea? Surely they will want revenge as much as Liverpool, given their 1-1 draw against Brighton? In short, it’s because Tuchel’s team is facing an injury crisis in defense.
The German coach said his side are still in the title race.
“How should we be in it?” Tuchel fired back when asked.
“We have seven cases of Covid. We have five or six players out for six weeks or more. How should we compete in a title race?
“Everyone else that has a full squad, everyone in training has the full power to go through this league.
“We’d be dumb to think we can do it from Covid and injury. Just play and everyone would be dumb to do it without 23 fit players.”
The latest injury victims are Reece James and Andreas Christensen, in addition to Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell.
This leaves Tuchel with a shortage of defense, with perhaps only Silva returning in time for the game against Liverpool on January 2. At the time of writing, only Antonio Rüdiger is available in Tuchel’s first-choice defense.
It could be a mouth-watering read for Jürgen Klopp and his players ahead of the game, especially for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané. Salah’s missed penalty against Leicester was a collector’s item, and Mané has failed to score in the last seven league games, a streak dating back more than five weeks.
A weakened Chelsea backline will be music to their ears and give the pair hope to rectify their respective issues. Their records against London are not the best: Salah has only scored six goals in 16 games against his former team, while Mané is doing a little better, with seven goals in 18.
Many believed at the start of the season that Chelsea were the only team capable of competing in depth with Man City’s strength, but that turns out not to be the case. They have won just three of seven since their injury crisis began to set in in early December.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have performed better with a shallower side, despite Leicester’s recent loss. Tuchel is clearly shaken by the change in fortunes, cutting off the same kind of exasperated character who said there was no “tactical or logical” reason for Liverpool to return to their Borussia Dortmund side in 2016.
Circumstances couldn’t have dictated a better time for Liverpool to face Chelsea, and the feeling is that whoever loses this game will surely be out of the title race for good.
And for the locals, the odds are already stacked against them. Tuchel already thinks the title talk is ‘stupid’: it could be even more so after Liverpool come to town.