Premier League: Liverpool-Chelsea, woe to the defeated

Accustomed to the heights, Liverpool (9e) and Chelsea (10e) are level on points in the soft underbelly of the Premier League after a very mixed start to the season. Their confrontation this Saturday (1:30 p.m.) could plunge one or the other into crisis.

Liverpool-Chelsea, shock at the top of the 21st day of the Premier League? Vulgar contest of soft belly, one would say rather by looking at the classification of the two teams. If the poster has something to dream about on paper, with a heavy liability and a myriad of world stars, it is clear that neither the Reds (9th) nor the Blues (10th) particularly enchant ball fans round this season.

Jagged results, mediocre quality of play, internal turmoil… On the banks of the Mersey as well as the Thames, the atmosphere is not looking good. These two big Europeans are not in their place, stuck with 28 points in the middle of the table, between Brentford and Aston Villa. Far, very far from their usual competitors, Arsenal and the two Manchesters. Saturday (1:30 p.m.), the loser could really sink into the crisis.

Reds not spared from injuries

Liverpool’s season had started in the best way. A trophy at the end of July, the Community Shield, won against rival Manchester City. What to recover from the Champions League final lost at the Stade de France against Real Madrid in May (0-1). But behind, the Reds are having a sluggish start in the league and never do better than a 6e square. October is black, with seven points out of a possible eighteen. We believe the machine was finally launched with a full box in November-December, but 2023 is off to a bad, very bad start. The two consecutive defeats against Brentford (3-1) and Brighton (3-0) plunge the team back into doubt. Without forgetting the elimination of the EFL Cup by Manchester City (3-2).

Liverpool were eliminated from the EFL Cup by Manchester City at the end of December (2-3). Panoramic

Some will argue that this is always one less competition to manage for this too small workforce. German coach Jürgen Klopp has had to deal with countless injuries. Ibrahima Konaté, Arthur Melo, Luis Diaz, Roberto Firmino, James Milner, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Thiago Alcantara, Virgil Van Dijk… So many names passed through the infirmary for more or less long periods, some still recovering.

Difficult to be competitive on all counts. “It’s really, really, really really hard. It makes the planning really difficult for the matches”, plague Klopp at the end of December. The only ray of sunshine on the board: the Champions League. After a bitter defeat in Naples at the start (4-1), Mohamed Salah’s teammates have signed five consecutive victories, enough to ensure their qualification for the knockout stages.

Cleanup at the Blues

The Champions League is also what saves Chelsea’s season for the moment. Four victories in six games, including two against the formidable AC Milan, and a first place in the group brilliantly assured. The inaugural defeat in Zagreb cost Thomas Tuchel his place, only a year and a half after the German coach managed to lift the trophy, the second ‘big ears cup’ in the club’s history. With results certainly below expectations but not catastrophic either, his eviction seems rather to be part of the big cleaning operated by the new owner, Todd Boehly.

Arrived in mid-September, Graham Potter has a disappointing record for the moment on the Chelsea bench. Panoramic

The American businessman took over the London club as a replacement for Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. And invested lots and lots of money. 300 million euros during the summer, on Wesley Fofana, Marc Cucurella, Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly or even Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Enough to build a very qualitative breeding ground which the new coach, Graham Potter, who has arrived from Brighton, has not yet managed to take advantage of. The team was 6e of the Premier League when Tuchel was fired. She is now 10e.

And the leaders put their hands in their pockets, slamming around 100 million on Ukrainian Mykhaylo Mudryk, 38 on French defender Benoît Badiashile, and 11 on a simple loan from Portuguese crack Joao Felix. Will the salvation of the Blues come from the transfer market? It is not the bosses of Liverpool who will answer in the affirmative. They probably already regret the astronomical sum spent this summer for Darwin Nunez, the Uruguayan striker who does not forget the departure of Sadio Mané for Bayern Munich.

On one side or the other, redemption will go through the game, the state of mind, the combativeness. Everything that made the soul of these two great teams. On Saturday, the winner of the Anfield duel could really start her season. The other might not recover.