Paul Merson says Liverpool are providing the sour test of Chelsea’s title credentials, but both teams could make a statement in Saturday’s clash at Anfield.
European champions Chelsea put their perfect start to the Premier League season on the line against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who also won their first two games of the season.
After torturing Arsenal’s defense on his Chelsea debut, record holder Romelu Lukaku goes head-to-head with Liverpool’s talisman Virgil van Dijk in a thrilling match between the Premier League’s most dominant defender and striker.
It’s a major battle that Merson believes could be decisive in determining who will come out on top at Anfield, and who will emerge as the main contender for the Premier League title for Manchester City.
Arsenal showed how not to defend Lukaku, but Liverpool won’t
“This is a great game, giving both teams the opportunity to make a statement,” Merson said. “It’s a huge game.” Sky Sports.
“Romelu Lukaku has undoubtedly improved Chelsea, but the acid test of their credentials will be the Liverpool game.
“What I saw from Arsenal on Sunday at the Emirates was everything you shouldn’t do against Lukaku defensively, and that won’t happen again at Anfield. People say Jurgen Klopp isn’t changing his path, but he’s going to have to change something.
“He will have to put something in front of the defense because if he allows Chelsea to keep rolling the ball to Lukaku on the edge of the penalty area he will hurt them in the end.”
Can Van Dijk deal with Chelsea’s new offensive dimension?
Lukaku returned to the Premier League from his tenure at Inter Milan more graceful and immeasurably mature after spells with Manchester United, Everton and West Bromwich Albion, and his first tenure at Chelsea.
Lukaku’s all-out game will frighten the Premier League’s defenses this season, but Merson believes that if anyone can take on the Belgian, it’s Van Dijk.
“You have Virgil van Dijk who is a Rolls-Royce player,” Merson added. “Will Lukaku go and choose Van Dijk to play with him? I don’t think so.
“That’s what Chelsea will have to do – try to get Van Dijk out of the game – but Van Dijk is very nice and will try to get around Lukaku if he is suspended.
“Van Dijk’s pace allows Liverpool to risk playing it safer knowing they will handle this ball over the top.
But Lukaku is ready to run, he’s fast and powerful, and he adds a whole new dimension to the attack of Chelsea, who previously didn’t have strong sprinters off and behind the ball.
“Not many people are willing to run without the ball but Lukaku is ready for that, and if Liverpool play that high streak, all it takes is Lukaku picks up one ball in the back and they’ll see you later.”