Only two days after an unexpected and disappointing 1-1 draw against Maribor, the Blues will travel to Anfield on Saturday to face Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool in the 11th round of Premier League fixtures.
Although Chelsea are 12 points ahead of Liverpool, Jose Mourinho’s men have a point to prove after the poor midweek performance in the Champions League. Owing to the unexpected results in recent matches, it becomes more important for us to analyze an opponent like Liverpool’s strengths and weaknesses.
THE TEAM AND THE RECENT FORM
Liverpool FC is based in Merseyside, England and is the most successful English club in Europe, with 5 European Cups, 3 UEFA cups, and 3 UEFA super cups. Founded in 1892, the club has won 18 League titles, only two behind Manchester United’s 20 titles. In spite of their glorious past, the Reds are yet to win a Premier League title since its inception in 1992.
The team led by Steven Gerrard is currently at 7th position in the League with 14 points from 10 matches, which include 4 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses. In their previous game in Champions League, they suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid. The same was the scoreline in the last Saturday game, when Liverpool returned without any points from a short trip to Newcastle.
The Reds, who finished 2nd in the League last season, with just two points behind champions Man City, have failed to leave a mark this season in spite of some big money signings like Mario Balotelli and Adam Lallana.
FORMATION AND STYLE OF PLAY
With the introduction of 4-1-3-2 or diamond formation, Brendan Rodgers made Liverpool serious contenders for the title last season. Steven Gerrard is the only defensive midfielder in the starting eleven and is also responsible for creating chances from back.
The basic principle in this system is to control the game while keeping possession of the ball but also have the option of launching a fast counter attack when opponents lose possession in transition. The idea is to move the opponent by constant ball circulation until an opening arises to attack the goal.
STRENGTH- KEY PLAYERS
1. Dejan Lovren- Although the Croatia international was left out of the midweek’s clash against Real Madrid, he has provided much-needed strength to the Liverpool’s back four which was much maligned last season. His reading of the game, positional sense, and general marshalling of the back four has been faultless.
2. Simon Mignolet- The Belgian has proved several times that a goalkeeper can be a match-winner with a vital save in the dying minutes although he has had nothing much to do earlier in the game. His one handed tip onto the crossbar to deny a late Southampton goal in the Reds’ first outing of the season, has been one such memorable save.
3. Philippe Coutinho- The Red’s No.10 has been one of the most consistent players in the last two seasons. Usually, in the diamond shape adopted by the team last season, Liverpool can match up one-on-one in midfield with teams and still have one player free, which was often Coutinho on account of his intelligence and ability to quickly shift the ball and move himself into a new position.
All Liverpool can hope for, is the recovery of Daniel Sturridge, with Suarez gone and Balotelli performing completely opposite to what earned him the nickname ‘Super Mario’. Sturridge has not played for the Reds since August and is expected to make his return against Crystal Palace.
Brendan Rodgers may have to go with an out-of-form Mario Balotelli, and ex-Southampton skipper Rickie Lambert while Liverpool’s defensive problems still continue to haunt them. One of the best examples would be Samuel Eto’o’s goal last season in the corresponding fixture at Stamford Bridge, which is surely still alive in the memories of Chelsea supporters. After all, it was the main turning point in their title race.
HEAD TO HEAD
The two sides have met 158 times throughout history. 69 of these have been won by the Reds while 54 have gone in the favor of Chelsea. The fixture has witnessed 35 draws.
Liverpool surely have an upper hand if we go by the history, but the contrary is the case if we go by the performances of both the teams this season, and individual player ratings. Jose Mourinho’s team will be favourites to win on Saturday but don’t expect Liverpool just to sit back and watch either, especially in front of their passionate fans who surely won’t let them walk alone!
Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni