Jurgen Klopp made a number of changes to the side that lost 4-1 to Manchester City on Saturday, with Diogo Jota the only player in the front-three to retain his place.
Netherlands defender Van Dijk has been ever-present when fit this season, only missing seven games at the start of 2023 due to a hamstring injury.
But Van Dijk missed training in the build up to Liverpool’s trip to Stamford Bridge and was not deemed well enough to be included in the visitors’ matchday squad.
Van Dijk’s absence means Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate form a centre-back partnership, with Joe Gomez playing right-back and Konstantinos Tsimikas filling in at left-back.
Roberto Firmino, who is leaving Liverpool at the end of the season, is handed a rare Premier League start.
Speaking before the match, Klopp said: ‘It didn’t work out in the last weeks so that’s the moment when you have to make changes. I really hope we can show the reaction. As a group we have to show a reaction.
‘Saturday, Tuesday is always something when you have to think about changes. I think things combined a little bit because we are not overly happy. There must be the opportunity for other players.’
Liverpool are eighth in the Premier League – eight points outside the Champions League places – ahead of their clash with Chelsea, who sacked Graham Potter two days ago.
Potter only arrived at Stamford Bridge in September but was relieved of his duties on Sunday evening after Chelsea dropped into the bottom-half of the Premier League.
Blues interim boss Bruno Saltor made two changes for the visit of Liverpool, with N’Golo Kante and Wesley Fofana coming in for Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mykhailo Mudryk.
‘It’s been really difficult, at every single level, especially emotionally,’ said Bruno, 42. ‘You have to do the press conference, you have to deal with the players – it’s hard.
‘My relationship with Graham and Billy [Reid], and how it affects families – it’s difficult to deal with that. It’s a sad day for the staff because Graham and Billy are two top coaches and top human beings.
‘I have to be as professional as I can and try to help and guide the players. I’m just focusing on what I can control and going day by day.’
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