Chelsea vs Liverpool Preview: Conte and Klopp go head-to-head in mouthwatering Friday night clash

Antonio Conte's Chelsea and Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool face off in a blockbuster Friday night Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge with both teams looking to keep pace at the top end of the table.

Chelsea vs Liverpool Preview: Conte and Klopp go head-to-head in mouthwatering Friday night clash
(Picture: VAVEL UK/Harry Robinson)

Antonio Conte's unbeaten Chelsea face the toughest test of their Premier League season so far, hosting Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Friday night.

Jürgen Klopp's men downed the reigning champions, Leicester City, in devastating style last Saturday - winning 4-1 as Sadio ManeAdam LallanaRoberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge all starred.

And such a result suggest they will represent the toughest opponent that Conte has faced, with his Chelsea side's near-perfect record only blemished by a 2-2 draw at Swansea City a week ago.

Before that, the Italian's charges had won all of their first three to keep pace with the two Manchester clubs and generally look much more like the team that romped to the title two years ago, as opposed to the one that slumped to a below-par 10th-placed finish last term.

Conte has got plenty out of his summer window additions already - particularly N'Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi - while the likes of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard have improved immensely under his management.

Conte and Klopp face off competitively for the first time. (Picture: Getty Images)
Conte and Klopp face off competitively for the first time. (Picture: Getty Images)

Though it is early days for Conte's reign - the results, considering the performances have been somewhat mixed, mark a very promising start.

But they will have to prove their title credentials when they face Liverpool, whose incredible attacking firepower showed in wins over Arsenal and Leicester City and even in, despite wasteful finishing, their draw away at Tottenham Hotspur.

Having already played against last season's top three teams - emerging with two wins and a draw - Liverpool's start shows promise of its own barring a forgettable defeat away at Burnley.

Inconsistency was their major flaw under their German manager last season but they will hope to prove they have ironed out most of their weaknesses with another positive result here. 

This is the same venue that Klopp claimed his first league win as Liverpool manager, beating Jose Mourinho's struggling side 3-1 back in October, but he is aware that it will be more of a battle this time around.

The two teams met in pre-season back in July, when a first-half Gary Cahill header ensured a stubborn Chelsea side took a 1-0 victory as they sat back, defended deep and frustrated Liverpool.

Cahill's header separated the two sides in pre-season in America back in July. (Picture: Getty Images)
Cahill's header separated the two sides in pre-season in America back in July. (Picture: Getty Images)

They may look to a similar gameplan this time around too, with Burnley having found joy in denying the Reds space, soaking up their pressure and hitting them on the counter-attack.

While the result at Turf Moor came without Liverpool's summer signing Sadio Mane, who has significantly boosted the threat of their front-line with his directness and pace as well as his creativity and movement.

The winger has already established himself as a unchallenged starter in the team, but given how well-drilled Conte's Chelsea side have already shown themselves to be, it could well be another clash of attack versus defence as the two teams look to claim an early scalp.

Team news: 

David Luiz will make his second debut for Chelsea with captain John Terry out injured.

The Brazilian centre-back re-joined the club from Paris Saint-Germain on deadline day for around £34 million, having moved to the capital of France in a £50 million deal back in June 2014.

Luiz in Chelsea training earlier this week. (Picture: Getty Images)
Luiz in Chelsea training earlier this week. (Picture: Getty Images)

And due to the ankle ligament injury that Terry sustained against Swansea, which will rule him out for around 10 days, Luiz will come in to partner Cahill at the back.

Otherwise, no changes are expected with long-term absentee Kurt Zouma the only other player missing from selection for the Blues.

There will also be a change for Liverpool at centre-back with Dejan Lovren likely to return to the starting eleven to take the place of Lucas Leiva.

The midfielder's error marred an otherwise solid display as he helped largely shackle Leicester's Jamie Vardy last weekend and Lovren's physicality will be preferred up against Costa.

The Croatian had suffered a badly swollen eye after a collision in training but has now recovered and will start alongside Joel Matip.

But Emre Can will not make his return from an ankle injury which has sidelined him since September 23rd, with the German midfielder considered too unfit to be involved.

Lovren in Liverpool training on Friday, still showing signs of his eye injury. (Picture: Getty Images)
Lovren in Liverpool training on Friday, still showing signs of his eye injury. (Picture: Getty Images)

Despite the success of Liverpool's attack last time out, Philippe Coutinho could return. He came off the bench against Leicester at Anfield after a long-haul flight on international duty saw him get just two days' worth of training in the build-up.

Sheyi Ojo (fractured back bone) and Joe Gomez (achilles) remain out, with the latter expected back in training in a month - though his return to the pitch is unlikely to come until November at least.

Head-to-head:

Overall: Chelsea - 61 wins, Draws - 38, Liverpool - 75 wins. 

Last meeting: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea (Hazard, Benteke), Premier League, 11th May 2016.

Recent form:

Chelsea

Form in Premier League: WWWD
Form in all competitions: WWWWD

Liverpool

Form in Premier League: WLDW
Form in all competitions: WLWDW

Match facts:

Chelsea have only beaten Liverpool twice in their last nine league fixtures at Stamford Bridge (W2, D3, L4).

This is the 175th competitive fixture between the two teams, with Liverpool edging a better all-time record with 75 wins to Chelsea's 61.

Chelsea have scored at least two goals in each of their opening four league matches this season.

Diego Costa took until Boxing Day last season to reach the tally of four goals that he has already met this term.

Antonio Conte has not lost a home league game as manager since his Juventus were beaten by Sampdoria in January 2013, winning his last 21 successive games on home soil in Turin and at Chelsea. 

Conte has won 30 of his last 34 league games, losing just the once.

Liverpool have only taken less points than Manchester United (34) in their last 17 league games, having won 32.

The Reds have also scored more Premier League goals than any other top-flight team in 2016, scoring 50, having managed three or more in as many as eight games.

Liverpool have only taken one clean sheet from 12 away games in 2016, which came in a 6-0 win against the now relegated Aston Villa back in February.

Failing to acquire a shut-out against Chelsea would see them go nine away games without a clean sheet, the first time the club would have done so since May 2005.

Match official:

Atkinson will be the man in the middle. (Picture: Getty Images)
Atkinson will be the man in the middle. (Picture: Getty Images)

Experienced referee Martin Atkinson has been selected to oversee proceedings on Friday.

The 45-year-old, a member of the Select Group of Referees since 2005, has officiated countless big occasions - such as the finals of the FA Cup, League Cup, Europa League, FA Trophy and Community Shield.

He has overseen three league games this season, including Watford's 4-2 win at West Ham United last weekend, handing out six yellow cards in total.

Atkinson, who was also at Euro 2016 in the summer, dished out 99 yellows and one second yellow across 29 top-flights fixture last season.

This will be the 297th Premier League game he has officiated overall, having racked up 981 yellow cards, 21 second yellow cards and 29 straight red cards since the start of the 2004-05 campaign.