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Liverpool vs Chelsea: Troubled Blues bank on Mudryk’s magic

Embattled Graham Potter can offer injuries as mitigation for Chelsea’s crash but the coach doesn’t have enough credit in the bank to ask for unlimited time to salvage the slide and will advertently throw his new signing Mykhailo Mudryk into the fray hoping the Ukrainian could lead a charge for revival as they face Liverpool who are battling against their own voodoo.

It has been a tough start to Potter’s career at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea sit 10th position on the table. They have endured a torrid time even in recent weeks having lost six of their last eight matches before pipping Crystal Palace 1-0 last weekend to steal some respite. The Blues are desperate to improve their attacking output having only scored 21 goals in 18 Premier League games this season.

Their lack of firepower has already seen them secure a loan deal for Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix, who was sent off on his debut in the 2-1 loss to Fulham penultimate Thursday, but Potter will hope Mudryk’s first match doesn’t traces of similar calamity. New owner Todd Boehly who bought the club last year has spent a total of £350million to purchase 14 players since he took charge and the splurge in the transfer market can be a sign that a swift and significant improvement is expected with Potter unable to say he wasn’t backed.

The transitional period hasn’t been helped by injuries and other bad luck, though, and Chelsea have repeatedly come up short in big matches with their performance becoming abysmal especially when playing away from home, they have lost five away games this term and Potter may think the arrival of Mudryk may help them rediscover their mojo. At the start of last season, Mudryk was unknown outside of Ukraine with a transfer value of under £1m. Now he is one of the most coveted young players in Europe. Following an explosive rise, Mykhailo Mudryk looks destined for big things.

It wasn’t an easy rise for the Ukrainian as he was sent on loan to Arsenal Kyiv by Shakhtar largely due to his bad attitude which was affecting his growth. Another loan spell, this time at Desna Chernihiv, would follow that, with Shakhtar hoping greater senior- level exposure would help him mature. However, the arrival of Roberto De Zerbi, now of Brighton, at Shakhtar in the summer of 2021 changed the fortune of the 22-year-old. He rewarded De Zerbi’s faith in him handsomely; since his breakthrough at the start of last season, he has scored nine goals and provided 13 assists in 23 Ukrainian Premier League appearances – and that despite the upheaval caused by Russia’s invasion of the country as well as the pandemic. The numbers are impressive but it is on the European stage that Mudryk has really turned heads.

He was used primarily as a substitute during Shakhtar’s group-stage campaign last season, but he certainly made his mark on his first start, his eye-catching display in a 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid earning him an ovation from the home fans at the Bernabeu when he was substituted in the second half. It was a significant moment in Mudryk’s rise to prominence. This season, he has continued to grow in stature, starting all six of Shakhtar’s group games and contributing three goals and two assists, a combined total bettered by only seven players in the competition so far.

Part of Mudryk’s appeal is his ability to play on either flank. He generally prefers to operate as an inverted winger on the left-hand side. His p a c e and power when cutting inside from the left to use his stronger right foot; his speed in transition; his clinical finishing ability and his ability to do it on the big stage like the Champions League sure underline the quality of player Chelsea have in their fold. He will be looking to hit the ground running when Chelsea travel to Anfield but can he help the Blues secure their first away win in months? Only time will tell.

 

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