Thomas Tuchel is anticipating a thrilling one-on-one battle between Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk when Chelsea take on Liverpool on Saturday.
Van Dijk has returned from a long injury lay off to help Liverpool to two wins from their opening two games, while Chelsea are level with the Reds on six points – club-record signing Lukaku having netted on his debut against Arsenal last time out.
Saturday’s contest at Anfield pits Europe’s leading defender and one of the continent’s leading marksmen against each other, and Tuchel is looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
“I am looking forward to it; I think many fans of football are looking forward to that battle,” he said.
“For Romelu, it is a big challenge. He had a very good start, so now we are into details, connecting better and better.
“The stress is on tomorrow at Anfield, but we knew we were getting a big and experienced player. He loves these kinds of matches.
“Liverpool with Van Dijk is different. It is not only his isolated capacity and ability; he also makes everybody around him feel more comfortable and stronger. They have a huge upgrade from last March.”
While Chelsea have spent big on Lukaku and may yet sign Jules Kounde from Sevilla, Liverpool have only spent money on Ibrahima Konate, while Georgino Wijnaldum and Xherdan Shaqiri have moved on.
Jurgen Klopp would like to bolster his midfield if possible, but insisted he is not desperate to do so.
“There is no need to buy a midfielder just because somebody is on the market. If the one player who is really the one who could improve all the things we spoke about, we would go for it, I promise,” he said.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Liverpool – Diogo Jota
Diogo Jota has scored in both of Liverpool’s Premier League games so far this season, and could become the fourth player to score in each of the Reds’ first three games to a Premier League campaign after Robbie Fowler (1994-95), Daniel Sturridge (2013-14) and Sadio Mane (2017-18).
Chelsea – Mason Mount
With Lukaku set to take up much of Liverpool’s attention, it could open up more space for Mount, who scored a brilliant goal at Anfield last season.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– After netting four goals in his first four Premier League appearances against Liverpool, Chelsea striker Lukaku has scored in just one of his last 11 against the Reds.
– In all competitions, Liverpool’s Mane has netted seven goals in 17 appearances against Chelsea, with the Senegalese only netting more against Crystal Palace (12) and Aston Villa (eight) during his time in England.
– After losing just one of his first 13 managerial meetings with Chelsea’s Tuchel in all competitions (W9 D3), Liverpool boss Klopp has lost his last two against his compatriot. Only against three managers has Klopp ever lost 3+ consecutive meetings in his managerial career – Felix Magath (twice, in 2006 and 2010), Thomas Doll (2006) and Thomas Schaaf (2007).
– Liverpool have won their last seven Premier League games, winning each of the last four without conceding and while scoring at least twice. On just three occasions has a team won 5+ Premier League games in a row to nil while scoring 2+ goals each time – Chelsea in August 2010 (6), Chelsea in November 2016 (5) and Manchester City in August 2015 (5).
– Only Manchester United (12) have won more Premier League away games against Liverpool than Chelsea (7), with the Blues winning this exact fixture 1-0 last season.