Big Match Focus: Chelsea vs Liverpool

Liverpool has the chance to race five points clear of Chelsea when it visits Stamford Bridge in a top-of-the-table encounter on Saturday.

Liverpool heads to Chelsea on Saturday for the biggest test of its perfect Premier League record at the start of the 2018-19 campaign.   -  Getty Images

The stakes will be higher when Chelsea and Liverpool meet for the second time in a week as Premier League leadership goes on the line on Saturday.

Liverpool edged back to the summit by brushing aside Southampton last weekend and is now seeking to reinforce the position with a seventh successive league victory.

It would be another landmark achievement for Jurgen Klopp's side, with only one other team in the club's history having notched seven in a row at the start of a top-flight campaign.

RELATED | Chelsea vs Liverpool: Three key battles

Chelsea was the last team to do it in the Premier League and, having erased the frustration of a scoreless draw against West Ham with a dramatic 2-1 win at Anfield in the EFL Cup, Maurizio Sarri's men will have little other than three points in mind.

DEFENCE TO BE DECISIVE

Liverpool's ascension to top spot has been underpinned, perhaps unexpectedly, by a defence transformed into the competition's finest.

Joel Matip relieved Joe Gomez for the 3-0 win over Southampton and contributed a goal to go with the clean sheet.

On his first start of the season, Matip must have been thankful to have the seemingly indomitable Virgil van Dijk for a defensive partner. The Netherlands international has been imperious to date and can take plenty of credit for the Reds going unbreached in their first 45 minutes of each match.

RELATED | Chelsea vs Liverpool: Mixed omens for the Reds' perfect Premier League start

In Chelsea, however, he finds worthy comparisons. David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger have formed an excellent, unlikely partnership responsible for three blanks in six Premier League fixtures. The pair both boast more recoveries and passes than Van Dijk, although they are outstripped for tackles and interceptions.

Preserving impressive defensive standards will be essential for both sides at Stamford Bridge.

FORM GUIDE

Saturday's encounter is set to provide a genuine measure as to how far these teams have come. Two points separate them in the table following Chelsea's first slip-up of an otherwise accomplished adjustment to Sarri's methods.

The London derby draw against the Hammers may partly have been a hangover from midweek Europa League involvement, and it will be eager to atone on home soil, where nine goals have flowed in three outings.

Liverpool, meanwhile, strolled past the Saints last Saturday after outclassing Tottenham earlier in the month. That 2-1 triumph was its first win in eight visits to fellow big six opponents.

RELATED | Chelsea vs Liverpool: Who will mount the strongest title challenge?

PLAYER HEAD-TO-HEAD (Eden Hazard v Mohamed Salah)

It might be a case of sheer competitive instinct that spurs Eden Hazard to meet Maurizio Sarri's lofty target of 40 goals.

Mohamed Salah stole all the plaudits as he comfortably passed that mark in all competitions last season, outshining Hazard along the way.

The Egypt star posted better numbers than his fellow former PFA Player of the Year in the two most essential attacking departments, netting 32 goals to 12 in the Premier League and supplying 10 assists to four.

However with a reconfigured role and the ball at his feet far more often, Hazard is back to his breathtaking best. Even though he remains more of a playmaker than Salah, Chelsea's talisman is taking the lead for productivity. He has pocketed two assists to one and, most notably, notched a superior five goals to Salah's three in six appearances.

HISTORY SAYS...

Klopp enjoys excursions to Stamford Bridge.

The German has won two of three Premier League away games against Chelsea, giving him the best record of any manager to have visited at least three times.

RELATED | Liverpool takes perfect record to Chelsea for biggest test

The single loss came in May as Olivier Giroud scored the lone goal, but that result is hardly a good omen for the Blues - they haven't won consecutive home games against Liverpool in the top flight since a run of three victories between October 2004 and September 2006.

However, greater success has come historically; only Manchester United have notched more Premier League wins over Liverpool than Chelsea's 20.