Two Premier League sides that suddenly may have needed a midweek contest for different reasons more than they originally though collide in Istanbul on Wednesday when Champions League winners Liverpool face Europa League holders Chelsea.
(Potential Starting XIs)
Though Liverpool were hardly troubled in terms of play in dispatching promoted side Norwich City 4-1 in their season-opener at Anfield on Friday, the calf injury to No. 1 keeper Alisson has thrown a spanner into Jurgen Klopp’s early season planning.
The Brasil international is expected to be sidelined for the remainder of August, which rules him out of at least three matches — highlighted by Liverpool’s Aug. 24 clash at home versus Arsenal. If the timetable for his return is accurate, Alisson will have less than three weeks of lead time to Liverpool’s opening Champions League group match in mid-September.
“(It’s) Not too cool. It’s a calf injury which takes him obviously out for a while,” Klopp told the club’s official website regarding Alisson’s injury. “I don’t want to make now [an] exact prognosis on when he will be back but it will not be Wednesday for sure, so then we have to see. It takes a while, it takes a couple of weeks for sure, and we have to see.
“I saw already like ‘six weeks’ and stuff like this, but Ali was not a lot injured in his career so I would like to wait a little bit to see how he develops in that process now. But he is not in for the next few weeks.”
(Mo Salah photo courtesy Liverpool FC official Twitter account)
Alisson’s injury makes Adrian the man of the moment in Merseyside. The 32-year-old arrived on a free transfer from West Ham right before the start of the season after Simon Mignolet departed Liverpool for Club Brugge. Adrian did not make a league appearance last term behind Lukasz Fabianski with the Irons and made five starts in domestic cup matches.
“He looked very good and very sharp from the first session he had with us but of course now we need to be careful [and] pack him in cotton wool pretty much,” Klopp joked.
“I’m not worried at all about how he will do it in the long term, but in the short term the problem is just that he came here with no club when we signed him. We don’t have to talk too much about it, that’s what the experience is for.”
Andy Lonergan is expected to serve as Adrian’s backup after participating in Liverpool’s preseason tour of the U.S.
Beyond the six-yard box, Liverpool looked in fine form as Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Divock Origi all scored goals after Canaries defender Grant Hanley turned Origi’s seventh-minute cross into his own net for the first Premier League goal of the 2019-20 season.
The match affords Klopp an early opportunity to rotate his midfield as James Milner, Naby Keita, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are expected to be swapped in for Friday night’s trio of Giorginio Wijnaldum, James Henderson and Fabinho.
It could also mark a season debut for winger Xherdan Shaqiri, who was an unused substitute versus Norwich as both Milner and Sadio Mane got late runouts. Mane is expected to be restored to the starting XI after getting his first training sessions in with the team following the Senegal international’s return from the African Cup of Nations.
While Liverpool are dealing with an injury woe, Chelsea’s woes run far deeper after the first match day of the season. Frank Lampard’s touchline debut with the Pensioners did not go according to plan in a chastening 4-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The Blues were unlucky to not be ahead early after Tammy Abraham fizzed a shot off the left post in the fourth minute, but Lampard’s young charges came undone midway through the second half when Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford scored two minutes apart to create a three-goal deficit.
The two-window transfer ban that started this summer loomed large as Lampard started three players — Abraham, Mason Mount and Kurt Zouma — who were on loan last term. Zouma had a torrid time dealing with Rashford and conceded a first-half penalty that opened the scoring.
The absence of N’Golo Kante from the starting XI was a contributing factor as the France international could have potentially mitigated some of the damage in defensive midfield, but it does appear Chelsea have some teething pains to work through.
“If we go in half-time 2-1 or 3-1 up, as we probably should have done, if we were more clinical ourselves and had maybe a stroke of luck here and there, the game would be completely different,” Lampard told Chelsea’s official website. “What I felt on the pitch and in the dressing room afterwards, and although the players are obviously disappointed, there were lots and lots of elements of the game I liked. There were four or five elements I really didn’t like and they proved fatal for us.”
(Frank Lampard photo courtesy Chelsea FC official Twitter account)
And it took all of 90 minutes for former Blues boss Jose Mourinho to stick in Lampard’s craw. Making his debut as a Sky Sports pundit, “The Special One” and Lampard’s former manager second-guessed the decision to start Abraham and Mount in a high-profile setting along with holding out Kante, who had been dealing with a hamstring injury and was relegated to a reserve role with the match well decided.
“He didn’t like the performance of Mason Mount? Is that what he said? Did he? wow,” Lampard marveled according to TalkSport. “What was evident that we made individual errors that led to four goals out of their five shots. So there’s the harsh reality for us.
“I don’t have to be too concerned about what anyone else says, pundit-wise or anyone, they have to speak.”
This game allows Zouma and Andreas Christensen another chance to better develop their partnership against one of the Premier League’s best attacks, though Lampard said Kante picked up a small injury Sunday. The match could also mark the first start for U.S. international Christian Pulisic after he came off the bench Sunday.
Lampard could also experiment further with using Mount and Ross Barkley together, with Mount potentially in a deeper role alongside Jorginho in his 4-2-3-1 set-up. Pulisic played on the left flank. Olivier Giroud is also expected to get his first start leading the line in place of Abraham.
“This is a trophy, a European trophy, an important trophy,” right back Cesar Azplilcueta said at Tuesday’s press conference in Istanbul. “There are not many chances to be here. We have been here with Chelsea the third time in the last eight years. We lost two finals in 2012 and 2013, so hopefully this year we can change that by winning it.
“It’s always good to be involved in this kind of final at the start of the season. It’s a great way to start and hopefully we can win it tomorrow.”
There will also be a bit of history with this contest as Stephanie Frappert will be the first female to officiate a major European match. Frappert is a Ligue 1 referee in France, where she is considered among the league’s elite referees, and oversaw her first match in that domestic league in April. She also oversaw the Women’s World Cup final this summer between the United States and the Netherlands.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Liverpool 2, Chelsea 1.
PREDICTED HALFTIME SCORE: Liverpool 1, Chelsea 0.
PREDICTED FIRST GOAL-SCORER: Roberto Firmino.
(UEFA Super Cup trophy photo courtesy UEFA official website)