THE match between Chelsea and Liverpool will be the one game fans look forward to as the new Premier League season gets underway.
Last season was one to forget for the Blues and Reds, and both clubs will want to redeem themselves and start the new season in style – hopefully with three points.
It will be a tough game for both sides but home advantage for Chelsea will just about make them favourites.
The West London side also had a good pre-season, playing five friendly matches without defeat.
While the games are more for building match fitness and allowing players to gel with one another, the results will no doubt give them more confidence going forward.
It is certainly encouraging for manager Mauricio Pochettino to see how some of the new signings have also integrated with the team.
Nicolas Jackson, signed from Villarreal in June, was one of the stand-out performers during pre-season.
The pacy Senegalese scored two goals and made three assists, and looks set to play a major role for the Blues.
Fellow new signing Christopher Nkunku also had a good pre-season with three goals to his name.
The 25-year-old French national, signed from Red Bull Leipzig, however, suffered a knee injury during the match against Borussia Dortmund and is expected to be out for a few months.
Some of the other players who have done well include Malo Gusto, Andrey Santos, Ian Maatsen and Levi Colwill, who Liverpool reportedly had an interest in, before he signed a new contract to reaffirm his commitment to the Blues.
Chelsea appear to have recruited well since they were bought by Todd Boehly in May 2022, having brought in some of the best talents from around the globe.
To date, the Blues have spent about £732mil (RM4.2bil) on 23 players. They have also sold and released a number of their players, including those who won the Champions League two years ago, like Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, N’golo Kante, Jorginho, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Mason Mount.
Against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, Pochettino is expected to adopt the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Newly named captain Reece James, Thiago Silva, Colwill and Ben Chilwell are expected to start at the back in front of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
In midfield, Enzo Fernandez, Conor Gallagher, Raheem Sterling, Carney Chukwuemeka and Mykhailo Mudryk are likely to start behind Jackson.
As for Liverpool, since the signing of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, there has been a sense that the team is still under-prepared for the new season.
It is badly in need of defensive cover, which includes at least one defensive midfield and a centre-back, preferably a left-sided one.
In their five pre-season games, the Reds let in 11 goals, which does not really inspire confidence – not after what happened last season.
With the departure of several senior players, including Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the team really lacks squad depth in midfield.
Apart from Mac Allister and Szoboszlai, the other midfielders available for the trip to London are Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott, as Thiago Alcantara and Stefan Bajcetic have just started training.
As of this writing, Liverpool were still unable to thrash out a deal to sign Romeo Lavia from Southampton, with Chelsea also having submitted their own bid to prise the Belgian away.
A deal could still be possible before the match at Stamford Bridge, but it could be premature to start him without proper bedding in.
Against Chelsea, Klopp could turn to Mac Allister for the No 6 position, while being supported by Trent Alexander-Arnold, who transitions into midfield from right back.
The Argentinian, who is primarily an attacking midfielder, is capable of playing defensively too, due to his technical abilities, versatility and football intelligence.
Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate should start in the heart of defence, along with Andy Robertson.
Up front, Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo should be the new attacking trio, with Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez making second-half appearances.