Tuchel excited for Lukaku battle with Van Dijk and the ‘stress test’ at Anfield

Thomas Tuchel believes our trip to Anfield will be the perfect opportunity for his players to prove themselves after a positive start to the season, though he has cautioned that Liverpool will be a different proposition to the team we beat on Merseyside in March.

Back then, Mason Mount’s brilliant strike in front of an empty Kop proved to be the winner as the Blues took all three points home from the deposed champions for the first time since 2014.

However, Liverpool were without their formidable defensive duo of Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, both of whom have featured throughout this term as the Reds beat Norwich City and Burnley without conceding.

The return of Van Dijk in particular has transformed Jurgen Klopp’s defence and makes them even tougher opposition than five months ago, according to Tuchel.

‘That’s the reality and we should not hide from it,’ he said. ‘Liverpool with Van Dijk is a different Liverpool than without Van Dijk.

‘It’s not only his isolated capacity and level of performance but also that he makes everyone around him feel more comfortable and be stronger. Together with Matip, it is a huge upgrade to last March, and spectators back at Anfield can be a big factor as well.

‘You will not be able to hear yourself or maybe communicate as easily as it was without spectators so it is harder to maybe escape pressure in tight situations.’

Yet the Blues are also sitting on two wins from two at the start of the Premier League campaign, having lifted the UEFA Super Cup in Belfast at the start of the month as well, adding to the Champions League title we secured so memorably in May. 

That gives Tuchel’s men belief that they can, using the boss’s preferred phraseology, hunt down those teams who finished above us in the league last season, starting with Liverpool.

‘We also feel very confident because we know each other now longer and longer,’ he stated.

‘We had some good experiences together and I have the feeling that we are ready for a fight on that level.’

Romelu Lukaku’s second spell as a Blue could not have started much better as he put in a dominant performance at the Emirates last weekend, scoring one, crashing a header onto the crossbar and generally bullying Arsenal’s desperate defenders.

While Tuchel expects the former Evertonian to be up for the challenge again as he returns to Merseyside, he admits that a significant task awaits so early into his Chelsea encore.

‘I’m looking forward it and I think many fans of football are looking forward to that battle,’ he added. ‘It’s not only Van Dijk against Lukaku, it will be Liverpool against Chelsea, but of course for Romelu it’s a big challenge.

‘He had now one match with us which was pretty impressive and a very good start so from now on we are into details, to adapting and to connecting better and better. The stress test is on tomorrow at Anfield and we will see but when we signed him we knew he was a very experienced player in terms of big matches.

‘He loves these kind of games and that’s why I expect the best that we can see from him right now. I am not sure if he has already reached top level, maybe not because he has only one game in his legs, but hopefully he will have a good match tomorrow because he’s a tough competitor and he loves to play in these kind of matches against a strong opponent.’

Something will have to give in the Saturday teatime clash, with both sides unable to head into the international break with their 100 per cent winning records intact. For Tuchel, it will not be a decisive result either way but he wants his players to be brave and thrive on one of the toughest stages.

‘Any time when you play at Anfield against Liverpool, it’s one of the toughest challenges that you can face in European football,’ he added. ‘After that, you’re much smarter about where you are and what your true capacity and performance is.

‘It’s like this tomorrow. We had a good start and Liverpool had a good start so tomorrow we will fight from the first minute to get a good result but it will be a huge challenge. No result will be a decision for the season but of course we are fighting because these are the challenges where we want to prove ourselves.’

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