This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Liverpool take on Chelsea this Sunday in what promises to be an enticing clash, with the two teams hitting form recently.
Both sides have been amongst the goals in recent games, and though Mason Mount’s absence through injury will likely be a blow for Chelsea, they still have the in-form Tammy Abraham to cause problems.
He promises to be a handful for the Liverpool backline, and Virgil van Dijk may have to be at the top of his game if the Reds are to continue their 100% record.
The biggest contest is likely to be the aerial duel between the two. Abraham scored five headers last season but van Dijk’s positioning combined with his commanding physical presence makes him dominant in his own penalty box, as shown in his average aerial duels won per game, as per WhoScored.
The Chelsea forward is lacking in that area comparatively, but he has instead been lethal in other aspects of his game, showing a poacher’s instinct and natural finishing ability with among his five goals against Norwich and Wolves in particular.
He has been heavily involved in the opponents final third, too, according to WhoScored. His average of three shots per game means he will be a danger who is always looking to put his side on the front foot, and the Dutchman can’t afford to give him time and space, as he can make key passes too.
However, van Dijk should be up to his task. Other than an uncharacteristic mistake in midweek to allow Napoli to score a second, he has been a colossus this season, and made a great contribution to his side on and off the ball.
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It will be a massive test of Abraham to come up against one of the best defenders in a world, with the Liverpool man understanding the game so well and being able to cut out danger, as evidenced by the number of interceptions and clearances he has made this season.
If the Netherlands captain is able to keep Abraham quiet it could be a long afternoon for Chelsea, as together with Mount the duo have been the brightest sparks for the Blues this season, as evidenced by their goal and assist stats.