5 season-shaping clues from Chelsea’s narrow win over Liverpool
It’s only pre-season, but there’s nothing like an ill-tempered ‘friendly’ between two Premier League giants to set the juices flowing about the renewal of genuine hostilities in just a fortnight’s time.
Chelsea and Liverpool did battle in front of a bumper crowd at California’s Rose Bowl stadium, with the Blues drawing the first blood in a 1-0 victory.
For new Chelsea chief Antonio Conte it was a first look at Premier League opponents, while it gave opposite number Jurgen Klopp more valuable match time to assess his evolving Reds squad.
Here are five lessons to take away from the clash:
Liverpool are still soft targets from set pieces
Call it zonal marking if you like, but there is no point guarding your own patch of grass if you don’t challenge the attacking player leaping up to head the ball home. In this case, a combination of Roberto Firmino’s lack of awareness and Marko Grujic’s lack of strength allowed Gary Cahill the freedom to score the only goal of the game after a 10th-minute corner.
Klopp must find a way to cure this set-piece disease, which was one of the few negatives from his initial season in charge.
Chelsea will be very resilient under Conte
After Cesc Fabregas rightly received his marching orders for a dangerous lunge on Ragnar Klavan with 20 minutes left on the clock, the Blues were up against it.
However, they never really looked too troubled despite conceding plenty of possession and given Conte boasted Serie A’s best defensive record for three consecutive seasons with Juventus, it’s going to be difficult to beat his new side in 2016/17.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek should play a more prominent role
The young English midfielder has been used a little sparingly at Stamford Bridge over the past two seasons but looked a composed presence in a central trio also containing Nemanja Matic and Fabregas.
RLC may be one for new England boss Sam Allardyce to keep a close eye on as the season unfolds.
Liverpool’s attack will benefit from Brazilian duo’s chemistry
In truth it was a game starved of many clear cut chances and goal-mouth action, however the lively Firmino did have a smart effort ruled out on 35 minutes due to offside.
The big-money signing from Hoffenheim settled well last season, scoring 10 Premier League goals and, with Samba teammate Philippe Coutinho pulling the strings behind him, it’s a promising partnership for Klopp to nurture.
Klavan looks like he could slot in
With Mamadou Sakho grounded for disciplinary reasons, Joel Matip sidelined in the short term and Joe Gomez’s return still a little way off, there could well be an opening for the 30-year-old Estonian centre-half.
The left-footed Klavan acquitted himself very well next to Dejan Lovren, blocking a certain goal among numerous highlights. If first impressions count, Klopp may well throw him in when Liverpool travel to the Emirates on the opening weekend of the Premier League, where they are the 21/10 underdogs.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.