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Chelsea’s “weak link” left exposed as “fascinating” Tuchel vs. Klopp battle awaits

Chelsea are in a mini-crisis ahead of their crucial Premier League clash with Liverpool, but are their title hopes over?

The Reds suffered a damaging 1-0 defeat away to Leicester in midweek, with the performance not good enough against a weakened Foxes side.

Meanwhile, Chelsea tripped up at home to Brighton, drawing 1-1, as their own hopes of title glory took a severe hit.

On Sunday afternoon, Liverpool make the trip to Stamford Bridge, with only a win good enough given the consistency of Man City.

Ahead of the game, we spoke to Chelsea supporter Richard Long (@Chelseafan_Rick) to get his thoughts on the Blues’ poor form, the title race and much more.

 

How do you assess Chelsea’s season so far? Why have they dropped off?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 28, 2021: Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku (L) challenges for a header with Liverpool's Joel Matip during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I’m pretty pleased with how the season has gone so far. We remain in all the cup competitions and have performed well in the Premier League.

The frustration is the recent dropoff in form, which I would mainly put down to a combination of injuries and Covid, as well as our inability to take chances.

Losing the likes of Romelu Lukaku, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Ben Chilwell at the same time has massively hurt us.

The loss of Lukaku, in particular, has been damaging as it coincided with Kai Havertz and Timo Werner both being absent from the team so we had to play Christian Pulisic up top.

He really struggled in that role and unsurprisingly the goals dried up.

 

Is there any pressure on Tuchel currently?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 4, 2021: Chelsea's manager Thomas Tuchel is interviewed after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. Chelsea won 1-0 condemning Liverpool to their fifth consecutive home defeat for the first time in the club’s history. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I don’t think so. Any fan thinking there should be doesn’t know football and any journalist who says that is just looking to sell papers.

Anyone can see the number of players we’ve missed over the last month without the luxury of a postponed game.

It’s probably the first sticky patch Tuchel has experienced as our manager and I think everything he has done up to now gives him a huge amount of credibility among the fans and owner.

I appreciate Chelsea are quick to fire managers, but in this instance, I cannot see Tuchel going anywhere.

The fans love him and he’s not going anywhere…for now.

 

Who have been Chelsea’s three best players this season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 4, 2021: Chelsea's Mason Mount celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. Chelsea won 1-0 condemning Liverpool to their fifth consecutive home defeat for the first time in the club’s history. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Thiago Silva has been outstanding this season and arguably has been the league’s best defender. His reading of the game and ability to position himself to snuff out danger has been exemplary.

Mason Mount has also continued to impress this season. He seems to be getting in more goalscoring positions, too, so has managed to add more goals to his game.

I still feel that he’s underrated because of his age among rival fans, but he’s the real deal and one of our most important players.

Pre-injury, Kovacic was having a fabulous season.

He’s not a player for the fans obsessed with stats but he’s technically brilliant and it’s so hard to take the ball off him.

Hopefully, he should be ready to start against Liverpool.

 

Who has struggled?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Monday, March 8, 2021: Chelsea's Kai Havertz during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Everton FC at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I’ve actually been really disappointed with Havertz this season.

I really thought after showing glimpses of outstanding quality last season and getting the goal in the Champions League final he was going to take the league by storm.

He is clearly a very talented player but he is still developing and young. He can be easily bullied by defenders and does seem to go missing in too many games.

Personally, I think he’s underwhelmed this season and it may be that he needs a loan move next season to further develop and discover his best position.

Pulisic has also been underwhelming.

On his day, there are not many wingers in the league I would pick over him but he’s constantly injured and failed to really make an impact when he has been fit.

 

Turning our attention to Liverpool, how are you assessing their title chances?

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 28, 2021: Liverpool's Joel Matip looks dejected as Leicester City score the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If Salah can stay fit they have a chance.

I don’t think it would be unfair to say that Liverpool have become a one-man team and any sort of lengthy injury to him would rule out any kind of title challenge.

He’s just had such a fantastic season and carries the whole Reds attack.

Swap Roberto Firmino for Salah for six weeks and Liverpool will undoubtedly lose points. Given the consistency and form of Man City, they just can’t afford to lose any more ground to them.

I think the City squad will ultimately see them become champions, with Liverpool and Chelsea fighting it out for second place.

I don’t agree with claims that the title race is already over, though.

The gap is eight points – nine for Liverpool, with a game in hand – and I think there will be more twists and turns to come this season.

 

Apart from Salah, which Reds player would you most like to see at Chelsea?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 20, 2021: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think Van Dijk would be the obvious pick.

While I don’t think he’s been as good as he was pre-injury – the defending for Ademola Lookman’s goal last Tuesday is an example of that – but there’s no doubt he would improve us.

 

Where do you see the key battles taking place?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 28, 2021: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (R) and Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The battle between Van Dijk and Lukaku should be very entertaining.

We were denied the opportunity to see the two of them really go at it in the reverse fixture due to the red card, but I would expect Lukaku to ask a lot of questions of him and give him a real test.

At the other end, I am nervous about what Salah could do to Marcos Alonso.

I’m sure the instruction from Jurgen Klopp will be to attack and get in behind Alonso at every opportunity, as he’s been a real weak link for us since Chilwell’s injury.

I also think the battle between the two managers will be fascinating.

They know each other very well and just watching the tactical mind games and seeing how they make changes during the game will be key to which team comes out on top.

 

Finally, what’s your prediction?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, March 4, 2021: Chelsea's manager Thomas Tuchel (R) with Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp at the final whistle during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. Chelsea won 1-0 condeming Liverpool to their fifth home defeat on the run.(Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

An exciting 2-2 draw with Klopp finding another reason to moan about something after the match.

Hasn’t he become insufferable lately with his constant whining?

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