Liverpool, Chelsea: What if UEFA throws a party and you have to show up?
Background image: kcanaytekin.
Liverpool take on Chelsea in tonight’s European Super Cup, hosted at BJK Vodafone Park, Istanbul. It will witness Stephanie Frappart become the first female ever to referee a major men’s UEFA game. The Reds earned their right by conquering last season’s Champions League, defeating powerhouses Bayern Munich and Barcelona en route. The Blues qualified with a comprehensive victory over Arsenal in May’s Europa League final.
After a period of celebration, Liverpool’s focus returned to serious business on Friday as they kicked off Premier League proceedings at home to newbies Norwich City. Jurgen Klopp’s men showed no mercy in hitting four past their shell-shocked opponents to pick up an anticipated three points.
Chelsea’s start couldn’t have been any opposite. In Frank Lampard’s competitive debut in their dugout, his charges were dismantled away at Manchester United, 4-0. They’ll need to improve quickly in order to mount a top-four challenge.
Tonight’s match offers Chelsea a chance to bounce back. It’s also Lampard’s first opportunity of silverware as a manager. Klopp, meanwhile, is chasing his seventh trophy. Liverpool begin as clear favourites, no doubt.
During recent press conferences, both bosses have stated the contest’s importance. Lampard told reporters, ‘This game means something to us (Chelsea) as a club because it is another trophy. If we win a cup, it gives us the belief we can go on from there.’ Likewise, Klopp said, ‘It is a really important game for us (Liverpool). This team is built for being successful and this final is another chance for us.’
Are Lampard and Klopp really as eager for it as they seem? Their teams will clock up almost 3,800 miles to Istanbul then back, in midweek, diverting focus from Premier League duty.
Turkey’s showpiece not only presents an eight-and-a-half-hour round trip, but there’s also an injury risk. Liverpool are already without goalkeeper Alisson Becker for ‘a few weeks’ due to sustaining a calf injury against Norwich. Midfielder Naby Keita is being assessed after limping out of training yesterday. The Reds can’t afford to lose any more key players. Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah are all irreplaceable in their league title quest.
Chelsea’s unfit list is longer. The seven names include centre-back Antonio Rudiger, who’s recovering from knee surgery, along with midfielder N’Golo Kane. The latter suffered a slight knock against Man United. Both remain doubtful. The youthful Blues require experience to step up. Their campaign will be severely affected should Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho, or Olivier Giroud suffer injury in Istanbul.
Chelsea’s main priority is to find form domestically. Lampard’s job security won’t receive a significant boost by winning the Super Cup, whereas it’ll be rapidly diminished by poor league performance. His side face a crucial, tricky match at home to Leicester City on Sunday afternoon. Failure to secure three points will potentially leave them six points adrift of top-four places only two weeks in.
Liverpool have a day’s less rest than their opponents before playing again. A long trip to Southampton awaits. Klopp may want Super Cup success yet his main mission is to take the Merseysiders to English football’s summit. To achieve that, they can’t drop any needless points in their predicted two-way battle with defending champions Manchester City.
To a large extent Europe’s equivalent to England’s Community Shield, the UEFA Super Cup is a trophy up for grabs. Still, such doesn’t prevent it from being an unwanted distraction to both Liverpool and Chelsea, two teams with much bigger fish to fry.