Preview: Chelsea vs. Liverpool 

Preview: Chelsea vs. Liverpool 

Mauricio Pochettino begins his reign as Chelsea head coach with a blockbuster Premier League opener against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.

The two English giants will endeavour to put aside their underwhelming top-flight efforts from last season and mount a stronger challenge for at least a top-four finish this time around.

It is fair to say that Chelsea’s first season under the ownership of Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital was eventful, but one that ultimately ended in disastrous fashion as they oversaw the club’s worst top-flight campaign for nearly 30 years.

Despite spending in excess of £600m on new signings across two transfer windows, Chelsea ended the 2022-23 campaign trophyless and failed to qualify for European competition as they languished to a 12th-placed finish in the Premier League, sitting 10 points above the relegation zone and a remarkable 27 points adrift of the top four.

The experiments of Graham Potter and Frank Lampard in the dugout failed to make the desired impact – with the former arguably not given enough time to put his stamp on the club – but there is now plenty of optimism around the appointment of former Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino, who is widely regarded as one of the top coaches in world football and who has been lauded for his ability to work with young players.

The Argentine has overseen a mass exodus of first-team players so far this summer, netting over £200m in the process, while Christopher Nkunku, Nicolas Jackson, Axel Disasi, Robert Sanchez and Lesley Ugochukwu are among the notable additions, and more are expected to arrive at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea enjoyed an unbeaten pre-season and came away from their tour of the USA as champions of the inaugural Premier League Summer Series after accumulating seven points from three games against Brighton & Hove Albion, Newcastle United and Fulham to top the six-team table. The Blues then rescued a 1-1 draw in their final warm-up match last week as youngster Mason Burstow netted an 89th-minute equaliser against Borussia Dortmund.

Pochettino, who has only won three of his previous 16 meetings with Liverpool as a manager, is now preparing for a baptism of fire in his first competitive match as Chelsea boss against a Reds side who have drawn each of their last six meetings with the Blues, with each of the last four ending goalless including both Premier League encounters last season – no fixture in English football history has ever finished goalless five times in a row.

Like Chelsea, Liverpool will have to make do without Champions League football this term for the first time since Jurgen Klopp’s maiden campaign in charge nine seasons ago, as they shift their focus to Europa League football after finishing fifth in the Premier League last season, four points behind fourth-placed Newcastle.

After taking their hunt for an unprecedented quadruple all the way to the wire in 2021-22, the Reds were unable to mount a serious challenge for any major silverware last season, instead watching their recent foes Manchester City win a historic treble and rivals Manchester United lift the EFL Cup.

Liverpool’s decision to not bolster their squad with new midfielders last season ultimately came back to haunt them, but Klopp has since overseen a significant midfield refresh at Anfield this summer. As many as seven midfielders have departed to date including captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, while Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister are two exciting additions, and Moises Caicedo could be another, although the Ecuadorian is said to prefer a move to Chelsea over a switch to Anfield.

While midfield movements are being made behind the scenes, Liverpool experienced mixed fortunes in attack and defence during pre-season, with 19 goals scored and 10 conceded across five friendly fixtures. The Reds posted victories against Karlsruhe, Leicester City and Darmstadt – beating the latter 3-1 on Monday – but a 4-4 draw with Greuther Furth and a 4-3 loss to Bayern Munich suggests that Klopp’s side are yet to get up to full speed.

Liverpool have had few problems making a strong start to life in the Premier League, though, as they have not lost a top-flight opener in any of the last 10 seasons – winning eight and drawing two – and a victory at Stamford Bridge on Sunday would end their seven-game winless run against Chelsea.

Chelsea pre-season form:

Liverpool pre-season form:

We say: Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool
Both Chelsea and Liverpool have cancelled each other out in low-scoring affairs in recent years, and few would be surprised to see the spoils shared once again at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Nevertheless, an entertaining contest should be in store and there could be a greater level of goalmouth action this time around as the defences of both sides have been far from watertight in pre-season.

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