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article imageTactical Preview: Chelsea — Liverpool

By Tyrrell Meertins     Oct 30, 2015 in Sports
Liverpool and Chelsea would have preferred a better start to their Premier League campaign, but a Saturday afternoon win at Stamford Bridge could turn their underwhelming seasons around.
Another loss at Stamford Bridge could possibly cost Jose Mourinho his job, whereas Jurgen Klopp is seeking his first win as Liverpool manager. Coincidentally, the two managers are familiar with their counterpart’s approach following several memorable clashes between their former clubs, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid.
If history repeats itself, however, Mourinho’s Chelsea may welcome further disappointment. Liverpool appear to be a re-energized side during Klopp’s brief period at Anfield, as the improved collective pressing has been evident. Nemanja Matic is expected to return to the XI from suspension, but the Serbian and Cesc Fabregas have succumbed to pressure this season, and may encounter difficulties controlling the midfield zone.
Klopp is expected to stick with a midfield trio of Emre Can, Lucas Leiva and James Milner, and though the energetic shuttlers may be instructed to press the full-backs when they receive the ball, they’ll equally close down Chelsea’s double pivot. This may force Mourinho to play Fabregas behind the striker, and Ramires alongside Matic, possibly thwarting Chelsea’s ability to bypass pressure with short passes.
Ramires and Matic form a combative shield in front of the back four, combining dynamism and hard running with a solid physical presence. The issue lies in the duo’s limited passing range, which could see the front four deprived of service if Fabregas or Oscar — if the Brazilian is handed a start — drop deeper to receive possession.
Where Diego Costa may not be fit to feature due to an injury sustained at Stoke midweek, Liverpool fans will be relieved to hear that Christian Benteke should be fit to start at Stamford Bridge.
“I think Christian will be fit on Saturday. He had little problems and with our 'striker situation' we can't take a risk," Klopp told the club’s official website.
"Divock played again and he did well - he worked really hard. But I think Christian will be back.”
Divock Origi wouldn’t be a poor option upfront as his pace would pose a threat to Chelsea’s out of form back-line, but Klopp would prefer that his first-choice striker start following a terrific goal against Southampton last weekend. Though Benteke’s all-round game is extremely underrated, the Belgian’s aerial threat via set-pieces could fluster Mourinho’s men, who have struggled defending corner-kicks this season.
Nevertheless, the key battle may take place in wide areas where Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno will be up against Eden Hazard and Willian. The Liverpool full backs should be less adventurous with their positioning given the quality of Hazard and Willian, but if Liverpool gain control of the match, both offer a legitimate goal threat in the final third, which will force Chelsea’s wide players into diligent defensive work.
Out of possession, the Liverpool full-backs will require protection in their base shape, as this would be the ideal environment for Hazard to regain form – the Belgian tends to play well against the Reds. The match-up between Willian and Moreno on the opposite flank is very enticing, though — both are speedy, diminutive players, that can change a match in transition — but with Willian arguably Chelsea’s most consistent outfield player this season, Klopp may encourage Moreno to adopt deeper positions.
Liverpool are still seeking their best combination in the final third, as Philippe Coutinho isn’t scoring goals and offers very little in terms of his all-round game. Adam Lallana or Roberto Firmino should take the other spot behind Benteke, and though both are likely to exploit space between the lines, the former and Coutinho have often congested central zones in the past.
Despite improved displays in their last three matches, Chelsea still appear short of ideas from open play, and have heavily relied on Willian’s productivity – in terms of goals and assists — from set-pieces with Hazard and Costa failing to rediscover their stellar form of last year. If fit, Costa could work the channels and is no stranger to physical duels Martin Skrtel, but his possible absence would leave the Blues flat upfront.
In short, apart from a defensive mistake or a set-piece, it’s difficult to pinpoint an area where either side will create legitimate goal scoring opportunities. Here, the one area of concern is that this has all the ingredients of a cagey affair between two outfits that are desperate to win, but fear another league loss.
More about Chelsea, Hazard, Mourinho, BPL, Premier League
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