Chelsea forward Eden Hazard can be the best footballer in the world on his day, according to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, as the two sides prepare to square off in a potentially season-defining clash.
The Reds lead the Premier League table by two points, just ahead of incumbent champions Manchester City, with the caveat of having played one game more.
As such, it remains imperative for Klopp’s team to take maximum points from all their remaining games in the top flight to give themselves the best chance of claiming a maiden crown.
While City face the comparatively easier task of a trip to Crystal Palace on Sunday however, Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea will likely present a much sterner task at Anfield, with the Blues also embroiled in their own race for the top four.
They have been led from the front once again this season by Belgium international Hazard, who has enjoyed a highly successful spell at the forefront of the Stamford Bridge club, but could be set to depart at the close of the current campaign.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Klopp was not afraid to sing the praises of the opposition player, citing him as one of the leading lights of the game across the globe.
However, the German warned that the Belgian forward would find the going tough against his side, who have lost only once in the Premier League this season.
“Eden Hazard on his day, he can be the world’s best immediately,” Klopp stated. “He [has] had a brilliant career, and it’s not over. He has a lot of things I like in football; he’s a good player.
“But like all good players, he has to play against us, and we [will] try everything to deny at least a couple of his skills. That would help us.”
Asked on his plan to counter the threat possessed by Hazard, Klopp added: “We will take 13 players, and two will play only against Eden.
“The best way to try to make sure that he cannot shine is to avoid passes to him. React a little bit better than other teams did. It’s not easy, because when he has the ball it’s already too late.
“You try to read the game, read the passes. But in the end, in a one-v-one situation, you cannot defend him. You need help from somewhere else.
“I like footballers like this. If he plays his best game, we have to deal with that. And if we can make sure they cannot play as they usually do, that’s good for us.”
Liverpool follow their clash with Chelsea with a Champions League quarter-final second-leg trip to Porto, following their 2-0 victory in midweek at Anfield.