Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has praised Chelsea’s ‘smart business’ as he discussed the difficulties of dealing with Romelu Lukaku, ahead of the two club’s meeting on Saturday.
It may be early in the season, but the upcoming clash between the two ‘Big Six’ sides is already being billed as a potentially pivotal encounter in the title race, with both clubs enjoying a fine opening to the new campaign to put themselves firmly in contention.
After a strong end to what was a turbulent last term, the Reds have started the season in fine fashion with comfortable wins over both Norwich and Burnley, while the Blues have been just as impressive in their victories against Crystal Palace and Arsenal.
Not only will this upcoming clash pit Klopp against fellow German Thomas Tuchel, it will also see the mouthwatering battle between the returning Virgil Van Dijk and Chelsea’s summer signing Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian looking in fine form on his goalscoring debut against the Gunners at the weekend.
Ahead of Saturday night’s clash at Anfield, the Liverpool boss praised his counterpart’s transfer business and warned that focusing too much on a potential Van Dijk-Lukaku tussle may allow Tuchel’s other stars to make an impact.
“What Thomas Tuchel did there was really good,” Klopp told the media at his press conference.
“The way they build up, the way they play is a clear structure but very flexible. They have width most of the time with the wing-backs, and have players in the half-spaces with the double 10 or the double six. Very flexible players. And now a proper target player up front.
“Last year people very often spoke about Chelsea playing really well but didn’t finish enough situations off, and that was obviously the idea behind signing Romelu. Smart business. But the good thing about football is there’s no football you can’t defend at all. It can be more tricky and more difficult – against us it’s not too easy to defend, to be honest, but unfortunately it’s possible – so these are the different aspects.
“You can make whichever headline you want to write about Romelu and Virgil, but he will show up around the other centre-half as well I guess. If we are only focused on Romelu, then Kai [Havertz] and Mason [Mount] will punish you.
”That’s the situation. It is a good football team, that’s why they won the Champions League. We are a good football team, too. We have had enough time to train and talk about it.
“Today there’s another meeting with the boys and we’ll show them – as we have been doing already – what we want to do to cause them problems because we shouldn’t ignore the fact that’s possible as well.”
The £97.5m return to the Premier League for Lukaku has been one of the most notable transfers of the summer, with Klopp admitting that the former Everton striker will cause problems for his side, particularly if they allow balls to be played into the box.
“Romelu is a big fixed point,” he added.
“You can maybe find him on the wings at moments but it’s not that he will be there the majority of the time. He really wants to keep the centre-halves in the centre, have these challenges, have body contact, all these kind of things. Then you have wild running and really skilled boys around him.
“If you let them cross, each ball into the box is immediately a major problem. That’s how it was with [Olivier] Giroud as well. It’s really not that easy [against Chelsea]. They are impressive. It’s like always in football, if you don’t want to have problems in an area then you should avoid passes there. That’s what we will try.”