Sports

EPL: Fireworks in London as Chelsea, Liverpool clash

North London is the place to be this Sunday as Stamford Bridge hosts the stand out fixture of the Match Day 2 weekend when Liverpool tackles Chelsea in a clash of the Premier League heavyweights. Although the actual on field fireworks will not start until 4.30pm, off the field broadsides between the two managers have already been fired with Chelsea’s Frank Lampard clearly ruffled by Jurgen Klopp’s insinuation that the Blues are spending big this term in an effort to close the gap on Liverpool which finished a massive 33 points ahead of the London outfit last season.

 

The German, who ended the Reds’ 30-year wait for the title in stunning fashion last campaign, queried Lampard’s £200 million spending so far this summer. But Lampard, speaking ahead of the Blues’ successful trip to Brighton for their Premier League opener, insisted they have only done what Liverpool started.

 

Klopp, who has only brought in £11.75 million left-back Kostas Tsimikas to his title- winning side, claimed some clubs were owned by oligarchs and countries. But in response, Lampard said: “You can go through the Liverpool players — Van Dijk, Alisson, Fabinho, Keita, Mane, and Salah.

 

“Incredible players that came at a very high price. Liverpool have done it over a period of time. “What we have done is come off the back of a ban and probably try to address the situation to help improve us.”

 

In splashing on those players over a couple of seasons, Klopp spent roughly £300 million on Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Fabinho, Naby Keita, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah while Chelsea was unable to strengthen last campaign due to the transfer ban placed on them by FIFA.

 

Nevertheless even with the ban in place the former England midfielder still did a magnificent job in his first season in charge of a Premier League side, guiding the Blues to a decent fourth-placed finish and securing the all-important UEFA Champions League ticket. The 42-year-old former Chelsea skipper also got his team to the FA Cup final were they lost to Arsenal to give himself a good base to build on this season when he will be able to strengthen.

 

And if truth must be told, Chelsea’s alltime leading goal scorer has done some good business bringing in quality players who should be able to considerably improve the performance of the one-time European winners. The six deals have seen Chelsea bring in Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen, Timo Werner from RB Leipzig, Hakim Ziyech from Ajax, Thiago Silva from PSG and Malang Sarr from Nice.

 

However, the million-naira question is how well the new signing will be able to be integrated into the team and whether the influx of so many new faces will not upset the established equilibrium.

 

But Lampard, who joined the Blues from West Ham in 2001 and then had to fight to maintain his standing in the squad following the 2003 transfers brought in by Jose Mourinho, hopes that, having given eight academy players debuts last season, they will step up as he did to keep his place in the first team. “I expect them to be excited by the challenge of playing in this squad this year. I think we are searching for a story here. I don’t see it in those direct, competitive situations that we are trying to find.

 

“The team needs to be flexible. A lot of the time I am talking about players who can play in a variety of different positions, which is always great for the manager. I just see it as a group which is hopefully stronger than last year. And the players try to give everything for the team game after game,” he said.

Turning to the new arrivals, Lampard insisted that his selections won’t necessarily be based on how much a player costs but that he feels the signings will lift the quality of his options. “I am not silly; we bring in players to improve the team to the level we feel we brought in,” he added. “Then you want them to play games. “You brought them in to improve so you want them to play regular games but there is never a point where you actually start siding with players over either how long they have been here or how much they cost.

 

“Those are not the rules and nobody would expect that. We just try and create a way to have players training at such a level to give us a high level of performance. That’s a daily battle for all of us.”

 

After Monday night’s opening game against Brighton, in which the 3-1 victory flattered Chelsea as the home team played better overall, Lampard will expect a much difficult outing against the champions who got the better of the Blues in their three meet- ings last season – losing 2-1 in the league at the Bridge, 2-0 in the FA Cup (also at the Bridge) and 5-3 at A n – field in the reverse league fixture. A fact acknowledged by one of the new players who did well on Monday night, Timo Werner, who said after the Brighton win: “The second game will become harder because it is Liverpool.”

 

The German international also admitted that Chelsea had not been up to scratch but warned that they would only get better. “We had a lot of players not in the rhythm now but I think we will get better and better when we play more games together.” Lampard will, however, take some solace in the fact that newly promoted Leeds United exposed the chips in the armoury of the champions with their high octane allattacking game last weekend.

 

Although the Championship winners ultimately lost the tie 4-3 they did show that Reds’ rear guard is not as impregnable as believed. Even the world’s stand out defender Virgil Van Dijk was often flustered by the all-action style of the visiting team, who were unlucky to have lost after a rash late minute penalty got Liverpool out of jail.

 

Klopp, however, would have seen how laboured his side was and will no doubt try to ensure that they are better focused against the Blues. While one might not see another spectacle like last Saturday’s Anfield outing, fans should still expect to be served a decent game between last season’s top four finishers. However, the day kicks off with two Match Day 1 beaten sides hoping to pick up their first points of the season with South- ampton hosting Tottenham Hotspur.

 

Of the two, however, the pressure is more on Mourinho’s Spurs following their shock 1-0 home loss to Everton last weekend, which saw the Portuguese slamming his own players afterwards calling them “lazy”.

 

Other games taking place today sees Newcastle at home to Brighton and Burnley away to Leicester City. Match Day 2 action concludes tomorrow with Aston Villa hosting Sheffield United, while Wolverhampton Wanderers welcome former champions Manchester City

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