Chelsea meet Liverpool in the pick of the Premier League games this weekend and both teams need to win this one. 3,000 of Chelsea’s faithful fans are making the 4 hour trip to the north east from London as they take on the likes of Sadio Mane, Couthino, Salah and Firmino. This promises to be a fantastic match. Antonio Conte has already said it is difficult for Chelsea with his team arriving back in the UK at 4am Thursday morning after their Champions League match against Azerbaijani side Qarabag following a 6 hour flight. Normally the team would train on Thursday but that is impossible. Liverpool however played on Tuesday evening in Spain and enjoyed some warm weather on Wednesday and still arrived back home at around 9pm that day. Therefore Conte has a point and Chelsea players might not be fully recovered from the mid-week match.
New options for Klopp
Liverpool’s defensive problems this season have been well documented and especially by me in this column. There is however an obvious possible solution and the Reds do not even have to spend any money. Joe Gomez spent much of last season playing for Liverpool’s Under 23 squad. He has spent two frustrating years regularly combating injuries but has fought his way into the first team. Last week, playing for England against Brazil he was the star of the show and was awarded Man of the Match. On the training field Klopp has been considering his options to solve the problem of his fragile defence and now it is becoming obvious that Gomez could be the answer. The solution up to now has all been about buying Southampton’s centre back Virgil van Djik but nothing has happened so far and the Saints are determined to keep Virgil when the January transfer window opens. Therefore, if Gomez switches to centre-back with Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren either side of him, the Reds will be stronger in defence. What they lack is a leader in the back line. Against Seville in the Champions League this week they led at half time 3-0 and yet the defence crumbled in the second half and the game finished 3-3. Jurgen Klopp was visibly emotional at the final whistle and kept shaking his head. That defence needs a leader! They need a Jamie Carragher or a Sami Hyypia who used to organise Liverpool’s back line and were the solid rocks in defence. Liverpool have to go into the January transfer window and hopefully do battle again to sign Virgil van Djilk or go after another tough, talented centre back who can organize and command the players on the pitch.
Guardiola is a superb teacher
Under the close teaching of Pep Guardiola, John Stones has developed into a superb defender. I should think the Manchester City boss will be on the England manager’s Christmas card list this year after providing him with one of the two star performers in England’s 0-0 draw with World Cup holders Germany last week. Stones and Crystal Palace player Rupert Loftus-Cheek were both excellent. Guardiola was not sure of Stones when he arrived at the Etihed statdium. During Guardiola’s first few months Stones frequently made mistakes and was arrogant and somewhat lazy. He had natural talent and it was obvious for all to see however Guardiola has turned him into a world class defender with that something special. Having spent nearly £50million on Stones in 2016, Guardiola was not impressed with the good looking Stones who appeared to be more handsome than thoughtful and tough. He was dropped several times from the first team and the Spanish manager shouted at him and bullied him from the touchline when he made stupid mistakes. But the manager persevered and spent a lot of time with Stones, on a one to one basis on the training field, passing on his remarkable knowledge and skill. He has made Stones into a solid reliable and thinking defender who will be part of Manchester City and England teams for many years to come. England manager, Gareth Southgate has compared him to Barcelona’s defending legend Gerard Pique which is interesting because Guardiola used to make Stones watch video after video of Pique defending for the Spanish giants. Stones more than made up for the missing injured City captain Vincent Kompany recently and even his harshest critics have acknowledged that Guardiola has turned him into a great defender.
Chelsea stronger as new stadium develops
Chelsea are beginning to pick up their rhythm…the passing between Fabrigas who is controlling midfield and the skill of Eden Hazard not only paid dividends against West Bromwhich Albion – it totally annihilated them. With fabulous players like Willian starting from the bench it demonstrates the depth of skilled players available to manager Antonio Conte. It is a good job that things are upbeat because Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is having to dig into his deep pockets. Chelsea’s new stadium costs of redevelopment are likely to be over £1billion! That would make it the most expensive stadium in Europe. Internal discussion at the club have revealed many concerns and eventually the 60,000 stadium could cost more than the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes Benz Stadium in America and the New York Giants MetLife Stadium in the American football league. Those stadiums are the most expensive in the world. Chelsea’s new stadium is due to open for the beginning of next season.