Jurgen Klopp will not concoct a special plan to stifle Eden Hazard as he insisted Liverpool will go to Stamford Bridge to attack.
Hazard changed Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup tie when Maurizio Sarri introduced him and it culminated in him scoring a magnificent goal.
The Belgian poses the biggest threat to Liverpool’s unblemished start to the Premier League campaign but Klopp, who faces an anxious wait to see if Virgil van Dijk will be fit, believes it is pointless to man-mark Hazard. Only once in his managerial career has he asked a player to shadow an opponent — when his Dortmund side faced Real Madrid in the 2013 Champions League semi-final — and it is not a plan he intends to repeat. ‘Mario Gotze played against Xabi Alonso, but no (I will not man-mark Hazard) as he is much more flexible,’ said Klopp. ‘Hazard is all over the park. With Xabi Alonso, it was clear where he was playing. That is a big difference.
‘I have the biggest respect for (Hazard). What a player. Wow! But it is not to defend one man. Yes, it is difficult, but we have to do all the things around it: close spaces, make passes more difficult. One of our biggest chances on Wednesday came when we won the ball off Hazard.’
There will be added concern, though, if Van Dijk cannot play due to a rib injury sustained last Saturday.
Klopp’s hunch is that the Dutchman will make it and he is prepared to ask him to play through the pain.
‘I will decide (if he plays),’ said Klopp. ‘If the player goes out and says, “No chance”, then I cannot decide. But in all other situations I’ll decide. ‘Virgil will try everything to be ready. I know how it sounds but as long as you are not seriously injured, like broken or ruptured or a proper strain, then the boys play constantly with pain. You’ll have (pain) after the first challenge. That’s how football is.’