A lot of the comparisons made between Chelsea and Manchester City are obvious.
Given both clubs have been bank-rolled by rich owners that propelled them to the heights of domestic and European football, whilst also having the significant financial muscle to bolster their squads in every transfer window.
However, Liverpool probably offers Chelsea the starkest example of how far they have fallen from the output required to challenge for the Premier League title.
Excluding their two appearances in the Community Shield, Sunday will be the first time Liverpool have reached a major domestic final since 2016, and the squad has radically changed in six years under Jurgen Klopp.
Only four of the 18 selected that day in February 2016 are still at the club in Roberto Firmino, James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi.
It reflects how wide-reaching Klopp’s transformation has been in those six years and how the squad he returns to Wembley with on Sunday perfectly reflect his vision.
The gap between both clubs in league points reached 30 in the 2019/20 season, and the current gap of 10, with the Blues having a game in hand, demonstrates a picture only slightly changed.
Tuchel was comfortable enough to label his team the ‘underdog’ going into Sunday’s final, referring to Liverpool’s great form, winning their last nine games in all competitions.
Their latest, a 6-0 drubbing of Leeds on Wednesday, only solidified the belief they come into this game in peak condition.
Klopp’s attack is the complete opposite of Chelsea’s. Although Tuchel has talent, a lot bought for big fees, his cast cannot compete with the output of Liverpool.
Diogo Jota, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have contributed to 57 of Liverpool’s 70 goals so far this season.
In comparison, Tuesday’s trio of Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech has contributed to 17. A lack of comparable output or value was found from three signings that cost a combined fee of £162m.
Tuchel’s attack lacks clarity, consistency and rhythm, all traits that Klopp possesses.
There is muscle memory in Liverpool’s style. They can almost go on auto-pilot and drift through runs of fixtures, picking up points with ease whilst overwhelming defences in a repeatable fashion.
For Chelsea, periods of this season have been awkward and turgid. Frequent attacking changes have made a standout combination impossible to find, and few players can genuinely feel they are the obvious bet.
A lot like Manchester City, there are very few awkward fits or glaring holes within the construction of Liverpool’s squad. Chelsea can point to being European Champions but still find themselves trailing the Premier League’s outstanding two teams by double digits.
The repeated nature of their intelligent scouting has only added to their ranks and expanded options rather than limiting them.
You could draw a parallel and still feel like Tuchel for all he’s done in 12 months. He still finds himself in a Klopp-like scenario in 2016. He has vastly improved those at his disposal but still contends with unaddressed areas and transfer failures before his regime.
Tuchel could send an equally bold message on Sunday by keeping Kai Havertz as a central striker over Romelu Lukaku.
It would continue to show who fits his demands better, and despite his club-record fee last August, the collective comes over the team. Klopp quickly came to terms with losing Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in 2018.
Coutinho had been the inspirational figure for several years, but his sale did not wound the Klopp project. It helped enhance it.
It allowed room for Salah to become the team’s goalscoring machine. It offered investment for the likes of Fabinho and Allison, who would help form the spine of a title-winning eleven.
Rarely have Liverpool indulged in the superstar culture, even after Klopp won the Champions League in 2019. The core values of his selfless pressing system continued to lead the recruitment.
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It is why you would never see a Lukaku, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo type situation occur at Anfield as we have at Chelsea, PSG and Man United this season.
Not only because the finances at Anfield would restrict such spending, but the sole focus on one man would undermine everything built and waste precious time.
That is the sad dilemma facing Chelsea with Lukaku. Since 2014, he has been a forward who’s looked consistently out of step with his teammates for all his wonderful goalscoring.
Deciding on his future soon will be critical and could indicate how the future of Chelsea’s squad build goes.
Liverpool continues to lead Chelsea in many areas, a statement that needs to be challenged soon.
Winning on Sunday will not instantly close that gap, but the way Tuchel goes about it may offer a glimpse into the future of Chelsea.
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