Chelsea v Liverpool
Sunday 20 September, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports
Chelsea braced for big challenge
It's a cliché, but if you can't play well and win, it's the knack of potential champions to grind out victories when you're not at your best. Chelsea were outplayed for large parts of their 3-1 win at Brighton, but a moment of magic from right-back Reece James (a stunning strike that came immediately after Brighton's equaliser) proved critical. Blues boss Frank Lampard was happy with the work-rate of his side, who are third-favourites in the Premier League Winner market at 12.5, and 2.245/4 in the Winner Without Man City and Liverpool market.
New signing Kai Havertz has come in for some needlessly harsh criticism for a subdued debut. It's worth bearing in mind that he wasn't playing in his best position, and he had a very short break, after playing for Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League. I'm confident he will settle down soon, but it will be interesting to see whether he starts against the champions. His Germany team-mate Timo Werner looked sharper and more effective, after rejecting the chance to play for RB Leipzig in the Champions League knockout phase. The former Leipzig forward's blinding speed helped win the penalty for the opening Chelsea goal, and he had five goal attempts on a busy night.
If Chelsea are to get to the next level, their results against the elite clubs have to improve. Yes, they won at home against Manchester City, but they also lost twice to both Liverpool and Manchester United, as well as suffering a 2-1 defeat at the Etihad. A record of five defeats in six against the other clubs in last season's top four simply isn't good enough, and Lampard knows it.
Mateo Kovacic is back after suspension, but new signings Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech are all short of full fitness. Werner suffered a bang to the knee in the penalty incident at Brighton, but is expected to fully recover in time.
Champions have chance to show their class
It was zany, breath-taking and scary at times, but Liverpool opened the defence of their Premier League title with a win. That 4-3 success against Leeds United highlighted a few issues, but just like Chelsea at Brighton, the Reds got the job done. It helps to have a world-class goalscorer, and Mohamed Salah fired in a hat-trick (two ice-cool penalties and a stunning strike) - the Egyptian is the 5.04/1 favourite in the Top Goalscorer market.
The signing of Thiago, a midfielder who oozes class and has just won the Champions League with Bayern Munich, is a statement of intent. Liverpool's midfield is chiefly about industry, but with Naby Keita and Thiago now in the building, Jurgen Klopp has two incredibly positive passers to call upon.
For all the talk of Liverpool dropping their level after winning the league, they have won their last three league games across multiple seasons, scoring 12 goals in the process. Five of those goals were smashed in against Chelsea in the 5-3 thriller that immediately preceded the lifting of the Premier League trophy at Anfield.
It would be a surprise if Thiago was involved at Stamford Bridge, with his move not officially confirmed at time of writing. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is sidelined by injury, but Klopp has no other concerns.
Liverpool are rightful favourites
Liverpool are 2.245/4 to win this, and that feels about right. They beat Chelsea twice in the league last term, and didn't play a full-strength team in their cup defeat at Stamford Bridge. The Blues' home form at the end of last season was strong, as they put together a run of five straight PL wins, but they still look defensively fragile. Goalkeeper Kepa seems jittery, his stats are awful, and he knows his club is trying to buy his replacement.
Liverpool are justifiable favourites, but as I think Chelsea will also find plenty of opportunities to do damage, I'll look elsewhere for my main selections.
Get set for a thriller
The two league games between these two featured a total of 11 goals, and it's hard to see either defence keeping a clean sheet here. I think the pacey Werner will enjoy exploiting Liverpool's high defensive line, and his natural tendency to drift towards the inside-left channel could cause a real problem for Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez. Equally, I don't expect a shaky Chelsea rearguard to shackle Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
I'll double up Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score here on the Sportsbook's Same Game Multi at 1.784/5.
Industrious Werner to push for goals
Werner looked energised and hungry at the Amex Stadium on Monday, and I expect a similar work-rate here. You can use the Sportsbook's #OddsOnThat to back him to have two or more right-footed shots on target at 4.03/1. Alternatively, you can back Werner and Sadio Mane to have a right-footed shot on target each at 3.7511/4. Mane scored 11 PL goals with his right foot last season, and had 36 shots on target across the league campaign.