Reds must be wary after the Frying Pan

NOT for nothing is Seville known as the 'Frying Pan of Europe'. Temperatures can hit the high 20s in late November as Liverpool discovered this week. With Chelsea visiting this weekend, they will be wary of going straight to the fire.

If a draw can sometimes feel like a defeat, this one felt like a disaster. Just look at the players upon returning home. Some were hooded against the rain and cold, all were hanging their heads at letting a 3-0 lead slip. Their mood was as gloomy as the Merseyside weather.

For this wasn't any old lead. It was against their nemesis from the Europa League final of 2016, a rival for a place in the Champions League knockout phase. Excruciatingly, it was a reversal of the Istanbul 'miracle'.

And the lead had been so ruthlessly and classily acquired. The Andalusians had more of the play but Liverpool were devastating at set pieces and on the break. And they were keeping a clean sheet.

At halftime, it looked a seminal performance.

They had silenced a raucous crowd and top place in the group seemed secure. Even more encouraging, it was looking as if there might be substance to claims they had finally sorted out their defence.

By a mix of tough love to Dejan Lovren in particular and having both Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum affording more protection to the back four as holding midfielders, things were looking up.

Clean sheets were being earned while they had lost nothing of their cutting edge: goals were still being scored at the other end and they were still very much in the mix for top four places.

Winter's manic programme of a match every four days could be faced without fear. Last season, the Reds led the table at the end of November; by the end of January, they were 10 points behind leaders Chelsea.

This time there will be no disruption from the African Nations Cup and the squad is stronger anyway. Joe Gomez has emerged and Adam Lallana is nearing full fitness.

Whisper it softly, Philippe Coutinho is still there and still fit.

Jurgen Klopp himself appeared unscathed from his hospital scare. But above all else, in Mo Salah, Liverpool have the signing of the season. "If he keeps this up, he'll score 70 goals," Klopp quipped after the Egyptian's latest brace against Southampton. At least on Mersyside, Salah is already the most famous Pharoah since Tutankhamen.

So, to suddenly have to return to the same old defensive drawing board after 45 suicidal minutes could have severe implications. And that the main culprit was Alberto Moreno, the new, improved Moreno who had earned a call-up to the Spain squad, made it all the harder to take.

The ex-Sevilla defender was Exhibit A in Klopp's claim of player improvement, but not on Tuesday. He was back to his calamitous worst and the epicentre of the collapse.

Dragged off early, he is not likely to be seen at the weekend, but that won't stop the Blues from tearing at what they will sense is a weakened opponent.

Although Anfield has been a fortress, Klopp will earn his money in repairing the psychological damage. Given the history between the two clubs, the atmosphere will be hostile but Chelsea will be buoyed by their 4-0 win in Azerbaijan.

Antonio Conte had appeared to be getting his excuses in early when moaning about the schedule. But he had a point. Liverpool played a day earlier and had a much shorter flight – so far more recovery time. What he didn't know was that they would need it.

But a proud team can be at its most dangerous when wounded. Chelsea's own defence has been shaky this season and, unlike last term, Conte does not seem to know his best formation. Whoever the full-backs or wing-backs are, they will be wary of Salah and Sadio Mane.

For all they have got out of Salah, you feel Liverpool have yet to fully benefit from having the pair of them playing together. That's because Mane, thanks to injuries and suspension, has made only seven Premier League starts.

Coutinho and Roberto Firminho looked sharp in midweek and Lallana could add that something extra to midfield. And with David Luiz back in favour, the Blues are never going to be rock-solid.

That said, they are fancied to hold together better than Liverpool who were accused of "child-like defending" by Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher. That must hurt but at least it may ensure that there will, after all, be reinforcements in January.

In the meantime, Klopp will have to play to his own strength – motivation. There will be much to repair but if Chelsea think the game is already half won they could be in for a shock.

Liverpool, you sense, have more to come from their attack so, for a change, we may just get a Big Six encounter with a few goals. For Chelsea, Eden Hazard and Willian are moving ominously into form.

It could all depend on how those midweek scars have healed.

Bob's latest book Living the Dream is on sale at Border's, MPH, Kinokuniya and Popular bookstores. Bob will be signing copies at Sid's Pub @ Bangsar South, Jalan Kerinchi Kiri, Pantai Dalam, KL on Saturday (Nov 25) evening.