Stamford Bridge, Chelsea – Liverpool travelled to West London to take on a red-hot Chelsea side on Sunday morning, a crucial game that was somehow sandwiched between even more important games.
In a week when Jurgen Klopp managed to guide his side to the Champions League final, questions from reporters obviously revolved around that topic. When asked if the final will be the most important game of his career, he remarked that “No. The Chelsea game on Sunday is the most important game in my career, and the Brighton game the week after.”
That’s not the impression that watching this match would have given you though. Spells of possession resulted in very little as The Reds looked bereft of ideas and quality.
Giroud’s first half header was enough to decide the game, as Chelsea were afforded a lifeline in their quest for top four. Here are the three key talking points after Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea.
1 – Fatigue Too Much to Overcome
It’s not often that a team is forced to fly back home from Italy in a massive Champions League tie, then play another almost season-defining away game just four days later.
It didn’t help Liverpool’s cause that Chelsea were coming into this game in probably their best form of the season. Klopp approached this game after only making one change to the side that started in Rome.
With Clyne’s inclusion ahead of Henderson forcing Trent into the midfield.
This was the 2nd time that the youngster was pushed into the middle of the park, and it was one of the many aspects of the team that appeared disjointed.
Possession wasn’t an issue as The Reds enjoyed 68% of it, but there was a severe lack of anything productive in the final third. Almost every Liverpool player on the pitch seemed to be carrying double their usual weight as their legs felt the effects of the last couple of weeks.
Chelsea were more than comfortable just sitting deep and finding joy from quick breaks and set pieces. This wasn’t a typical Liverpool performance, and fans will be hoping that they don’t see it again this season.
2 – Deficiencies in the Squad Are Showing
If there was one thing that pundits, journalists, and supporters alike thought would keep Liverpool from enjoying a successful season, it was their squad depth. Fast forward to May, and the club is on the brink of achieving the nigh on impossible.
Champions League qualification is on the horizon and a final against Real Madrid in the same competition looms. However, the players available to help the side in those two quests continues to get thinner and thinner.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Joel Matip, Emre Can, and Adam Lallana in the long term injury list two weeks ago. Although the latter pair could still feature at some point this season.
The aforementioned shifting of Trent into the midfield just highlights this issue even further. The midfield trio of Milner, Henderson, and Wijnaldum are the only senior options available, losing one of them would be a major setback.
Heaven forbid that the potential of losing one of the members of the front 3 is mentioned. Jurgen Klopp has been lucky enough to not have to worry about these problems too much this season. With only two matches left, he’ll be hoping that the football gods show him favour for just a little longer.
3 – Two Cup Finals Left
This is the 3rd time that Jurgen Klopp has finished a campaign with Liverpool. And every single time, he’s guided his side into a position where the last game of the season matters.
First, it was a European final, then securing a place in the top four, and now it’s both.
Every big team wants to be fighting for something at the end of the season, and for much of this decade that hasn’t been the case with Liverpool Football Club. Even while looking at the shallowest of surfaces, it’s clear that Jurgen Klopp has brought progress to this side.
With that being said though, it’s slightly frustrating to Liverpool fans that their place in the top four has to be secured on the final day of the season. Three consecutive league games without a win have allowed Chelsea to catch up and put them in this position.
In spite of this, their destiny still rests entirely in their own hands. Their vastly superior goal difference means that a win at home to Brighton confirms their place. The Champions League final however is a different matter entirely.
Real Madrid are on a quest to win their third successive European Cup. And Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool know all too well how difficult stopping a two-time defending European champion from Spain can be.
No outsider expects The Reds to win this match, and it’s in those exact conditions where this club thrives. Success in Kyiv will mark this campaign as one of the most memorable in the club’s history. But before any of that can be truly thought of, the season’s first cup final awaits