This time last season, Liverpool led the Premier League after 15 games before the busy holiday schedule started.
Virgil van Dijk’s injury has raised fears their campaign may collapse, but six wins in nine top-level appearances since his blow to ACL gave manager Jurgen Klopp hope his side could survive without him. colossal Dutch.
What happened next, however, turned out to be a nightmare of epic proportions – and one that ultimately saw their hopes of retaining their title dwindle.
Two more long-term injuries from Joe Gomez and Joel Matip sent the Reds into an all-brown crisis in defense.
Natural midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho were forced to team up at the back, before Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies were urgently recruited in January.
There were also notable absentees in midfield, with Thiago Alcantara, Henderson and Fabinho getting injured later.
Diogo Jota, who had dazzled at the start of the campaign after his £ 40million transfer from Wolves, has also been sidelined for six weeks.
Injuries led to a pretty noticeable drop in form for the then Premier League champions.
After a 7-0 victory over Crystal Palace in December, they have won just three of 14 games, including an extraordinary six-game losing streak at Anfield – a disastrous home form never seen before in the club history.
The six straight losses came in the span of just 46 days, starting with a 2-1 loss to Burnley, then Brighton (1-0), Manchester City (4-1), Everton (2-0), Chelsea (1-0) and Fulham (1-0).
This season, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea appear to be suffering a strangely similar fate.
Much like Van Dijk for Liverpool, Chilwell’s ACL injury was the catalyst for a large influx of arrivals into Cobham’s medical room.
After a superb start to the campaign, injuries began to coincide with difficult form for the European champions.
They drew with an out of the ordinary Manchester United, were very lucky to beat Watford and were defeated by West Ham last time around to drop them to third place in the table.
Their situation in midfield, to put it bluntly, is dire.
The Blues have just two central midfielders in great shape, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Saul, who was on loan over the summer but made two nightmarish appearances which led to him being hung up in the mid- time.
Ross Barkley can play in the middle as well, but he’s more used to an attacking role and doesn’t fit the starting role as one of the two midfielders in Tuchel’s 3-4-3 system.
When your luck is lost it really is – as Liverpool found out last season – and the situation regarding Mateo Kovacic is proof of that.
The Croatian returned to Chelsea training on Monday after hamstring problems, only to return a positive coronavirus test on Tuesday.
He had been out of action since the end of October and Blues boss Tuchel had hoped to relieve him this week.
N’Golo Kante remains on the sidelines with a knee problem, while Jorginho was forced to play despite the pain of a sore back and will now miss Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Zenit.
Kovacic, Kante and Jorginho are all essential to Tuchel’s system as Chelsea’s stellar defensive midfielders, and the Blues have fought to make up for their respective absences.
The problems aren’t just in the back, either.
Marcos Alonso took a hit in the loss to West Ham last weekend, while Trevoh Chalobah and Ben Chilwell are still out.
Ross Barkley may well have an important role to play for Chelsea, whose team’s incredible depth has been reduced in quite a remarkable way in recent weeks.
Tuchel, however, is hopeful that his largely unscathed attack can do the trick for him.
Havertz, Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi are all in great shape.
So more than ever, the Blues need their attackers to find their rhythm, with dense and fast matches during the Christmas period and starting with a Champions League clash against Zenit on Wednesday.
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