Chelsea and Liverpool meet at Stamford Bridge in Gameweek 6 and both sides were in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday evening.
The two clubs started off their European campaigns with defeats but the main Fantasy talking points were less about the disappointing results, as we will discuss below.
Chelsea 0-1 Valencia
Chelsea and Fantasy managers are awaiting further news on an injury to Mason Mount (£6.5m) after the in-demand FPL midfielder limped from the field of play after just a quarter of an hour of the Blues’ opening group match of the 2019/20 Champions League.
Mount was on the receiving end of a robust challenge from the visitors’ Francis Coquelin and had attempted to carry on after sustaining an ankle injury but was replaced by Pedro (£7.0m) soon after.
Manager Frank Lampard said afterwards:
He’s got an ankle injury but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll have to assess it in the next 48 hours to see the scale of the injury.
It was a shame because he started the game well and it meant we had to make the change early on.
Football London journalist Alan Smith reported that Mount limped through the mixed zone after full-time and added that the player was hopeful of being fit for Sunday’s game, although Emerson Palmieri (£5.5m) had made similar noises after sustaining a hamstring injury in Italy’s win over Finland and has not featured in Chelsea’s last two matches.
Fantasy managers, then, ought to be patient and await an official diagnosis amid the groundless speculation on social media and beyond, particularly as there is FPL value tied up in the most-bought midfielder of 2019/20.
Chelsea sit top of our Season Ticker from Gameweeks 7-17, so the hope for existing owners would be that recovery is swift (or that any injury update is conclusive enough for us to make a decision on his future).
Tammy Abraham (£7.3m) is the most-bought FPL asset in the run-up to Gameweek 6 and his ever-growing band of owners would have been relieved to see him come through last night’s test unscathed, although the in-form striker couldn’t add to his tally of seven goals in three fixtures.
The young forward made a bright start to proceedings and his movement was impressive, first forcing a save from Jasper Cillessen with a near-post dart and then beating his marker to head a Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.9m) cross wide.
Abraham found life much tougher thereafter, though, with his other three attempts blocked and Valencia’s backline doing well to starve the Chelsea number nine of service and space.
Willian (£7.0m) had a similar tail-off in the second half but was among the Blues’ most eye-catching attacking assets early on, playing just off Abraham with Mount (and then Pedro) in a 3-4-2-1.
The Brazil international was again preferred to Pedro, Christian Pulisic (£7.4m) and Ross Barkley (£5.7m) for the second game running and could, perhaps should, have been on the scoresheet, blazing over when played through by Mateo Kovacic (£5.5m) and then forcing a fine near-post save from Cillessen.
Willian registered more key passes than anyone on show, although it should be said that he will likely not have the benefit of taking corners and indirect free-kicks when Mount is back to fitness.
Although not as deadly as they were at Molineux, Chelsea still had 22 shots to Valencia’s eight and Lampard felt they were deserving of at least a point:
We probably should have got the win, or at least a draw.
We created enough good chances, had a penalty and then conceded from one shot on target. It’s a harsh lesson of Champions League football because we played pretty well but lost.
The good news is we’ve got five more games left in the group but we should have got more tonight.
As Lampard mentioned above, Chelsea were gifted a glorious chance to equalise in the 87th minute when they were awarded a spot-kick after a handball by Daniel Wass.
The penalty-taking running order has been the source of some debate for a while now, with Barkley having taken two in pre-season.
Abraham also stepped up from 12 yards over the summer with Barkley off the pitch and Jorginho (£5.0m) on it, although the Italian midfielder was given the nod over Abraham when the Blues were awarded a penalty in the Super Cup (Barkley was off the field for that one, too).
To complicate matters further, Willian – who wasn’t on the pitch for any of the above – was also thought to feature high up in the spot-kick hierarchy.
All four players were involved in the discussions when referee Cüneyt Çakir pointed to the spot, with Willian looking the most miffed about Barkley’s insistence that he should take the penalty.
The former Everton midfielder almost inevitably missed his subsequent effort from 12 yards, crashing the ball off the bar and into the crowd.
Lampard said there was no issue with Barkley stepping up to take the kick, however, and even confirmed that the England international was first in line:
Ross is the penalty taker. He’s scored a couple in pre-season and he’s been the taker whenever he’s started or come on in games. I don’t know what the conversation was but Willian and Jorginho were the penalty takers from the start and Ross was once he came on.
Based on the comments above, then, Abraham looks to be fourth in the running order behind Barkley, Willian and Jorginho.
Chelsea’s backline had one of their quieter games of the season, with budget FPL defender Fikayo Tomori (£4.5m) perhaps the pick of the centre-halves on his third successive start.
The Blues were again undone by an admittedly well-worked set-piece routine, however, and it is now seven games in all competitions without a clean sheet for Lampard’s troops.
That aversion to shut-outs is the major downside to Chelsea’s defenders in FPL, with Tomori’s budget status and the sidelined Emerson’s attacking threat otherwise catching the eye.
Lampard stuck with the same 3-4-2-1 that he used at Wolves on Saturday and their two wing-backs certainly caught the eye from an offensive perspective against Valencia, with Azpilicueta (who has had a less-than-stellar start to 2019/20) getting forward to supply three chances for Abraham and Willian.
Alonso, meanwhile, had four attempts on goal, including one effort from a direct free-kick.
Whether Lampard sticks with this system going forward remains to be seen, particularly with N’Golo Kante (£5.0m) nearing a return.
The Chelsea boss had cited Wolves’ use of a 3-5-2 as one of his reasons for the system change on Saturday, although played the formation against Valencia’s 4-4-2 and had also mentioned that three centre-halves gave his team “a bit more security on face value”.
Chelsea XI (3-4-2-1): Kepa, Christensen, Tomori, Zouma (Giroud 73), Azpilicueta, Kovacic (Barkley 80), Jorginho, Alonso, Willian, Mount (Pedro 15), Abraham.
Napoli 2-0 Liverpool
Andrew Robertson (£6.9m) recovered from a minor knock that he picked up in the win over Newcastle United on Saturday to play the full 90 minutes in Naples on Tuesday.
Robertson was part of an unchanged backline that again failed to keep a clean sheet, with the Reds now having recorded just one shut-out in their seven competitive matches this season.
Adrian (£4.6m) had to be alert in what was an admittedly tough start to Liverpool’s Champions League title defence but let’s not forget that Jurgen Klopp’s side suffered a similar late defeat against Napoli a year ago and at least offered more of an attacking threat in this latest fixture.
Liverpool’s front three all had chances, with Sadio Mane (£11.6m) twice testing Alex Meret from difficult angles and Roberto Firmino (£9.5m) heading only narrowly wide of the Napoli goalkeeper’s upright.
Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) had five attempts on goal, meanwhile, and should have twice been found by Mane and James Milner (£5.4m) when unmarked and in excellent positions.
Salah forced Meret into a flying stop when pouncing on a Napoli error but in truth, this wasn’t a vintage attacking display from Liverpool in what was their sternest test of 2019/20 so far.
All three of the Reds’ premium options completed 90 minutes, although there is now five days of recovery before the trip to Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool’s rather limited central midfield did little creatively while the fact that Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.1m) failed to register a shot or key pass between them perhaps illustrated the visitors’ understandably more conservative approach – this was, indeed, a Napoli team who had ripped Klopp’s side to shreds on the counter-attack in pre-season.
Adrian had to make a smart double-stop from Fabian Ruiz in the first half and produced a superb save to deny Dries Mertens after the break but couldn’t keep out the Belgian’s 82nd-minute penalty after Robertson had controversially been adjudged to have brought down José Callejón.
Napoli’s second goal was all of Liverpool’s own making, however, with Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) – who was caught under the ball for that aforementioned Mertens chance – producing a sloppy pass that allowed Fernando Llorente to nip in and score.
All in all, this was a better performance defensively and offensively than Liverpool had served up in Naples 11 months ago and a less-than-watertight Chelsea backline will likely provide the Reds with a lot more attacking freedom than Kalidou Koulibaly and co. did last night.
Reflecting on the game, Klopp said:
It was much more of a game than last year when we played here and lost 1-0. We had a lot of good moments; I think we controlled the game in a lot of moments, we had a lot of interceptions, we won the ball and had counter-attacks. Both teams showed a lot of respect for each other, very compact, defended well and that’s how you play a game against a strong side, to be honest. It was really hard work for both teams.
The second half was a bit [more with] wilder moments – counter-attack, counter-attack and then lose the ball when you are in the box and then have to run back. Then we started to control the game again and then we conceded the 1-0 and that was the game-changer tonight.
We have to accept the result and we do that. We are really critical with ourselves but it was not a really, really bad performance; it was a game which you can win at Napoli, but we didn’t because we didn’t score and that doesn’t work then really.
Divock Origi (£5.4m) wasn’t involved, with Klopp saying on Monday:
The update on Div is that it is not too serious. We expect him [to be out for] between one and two weeks, but it depends a little bit on when he can deal with the pain. It is nothing really; it’s a feeling, but it should be fine.
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson (Shaqiri 87′), Fabinho, Milner (Wijnaldum 65′); Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Lessons learned from Gameweek 5
- Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle
- Brighton 1-1 Burnley
- Man Utd 1-0 Leicester
- Sheffield Utd 0-1 Southampton
- Spurs 4-0 Crystal Palace
- Wolves 2-5 Chelsea
- Norwich 3-2 Man City
- Bournemouth 3-1 Everton
- Watford 2-2 Arsenal
- Aston Villa 0-0 West Ham
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