Liverpool haven’t had the best start to 2017.
One win in eight games has seen the Reds crash out of both the EFL Cup and the FA Cup. On top of that they have also fallen ten points behind league leaders Chelsea and currently find themselves in fourth position.
However, a win against Chelsea could change everything. It could potentially be a season swinger.
It cuts the gap between the two clubs to seven points and with Antonio Conte’s men hosting Arsenal over the weekend there’s a possibility, even if it’s a small one, that the Merseyside club finish the week just the four points behind if results go in their favour.
Making up a four point gap with 14 games to play is definitely achievable. If Jurgen Klopp’s men are to have any hope of finding themselves in that scenario then a win tonight at Anfield isn’t just important, It’s a necessity.
It’s not going to be easy, though. Chelsea have won fifteen of their last sixteen Premier League matches. They’ve kept 12 clean sheets in the process and scored 36 goals. They have been a bit machine-like and ruthless in their quest for the title.
Their only black mark is the 2-0 loss to Spurs. Liverpool should go about using some of Mauricio Pochettino’s tactics if they want to become only the second team since September to take a point or more off of the runaway leaders.
How Liverpool Can Defeat Chelsea
Exploit Gary Cahill’s lack of pace
This is perhaps the most obvious point but Liverpool have a pace advantage in central areas. At 31-years-old Cahill isn’t getting any younger and he often finds himself playing as an auxiliary left-back at times as he covers for Marcos Alonso who spends a lot of time attacking. It means Sadio Mane, who is now back from the Africa Cup of Nations, could find himself one-on-one with Cahill if Alonso gets caught in an attacking transition.
Although on paper Liverpool and Chelsea play different systems, they end up being pretty similar when play gets under way. Jordan Henderson drops back between the centre-backs to create a back three, the full-backs push on to almost make a midfield four and the wide attackers find themselves in central areas.
It would end up being Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Mane up against Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Cahill. The Reds must surely fancy those chances.
Get players into the penalty area
Spurs took a risk and flooded the Chelsea penalty area whenever they went on the attack and it paid dividends. In some instances Spurs even had men over at the far post and Chelsea couldn’t seem to cope with the increased activity in their penalty area.
If Liverpool get back to their destructive best and have the likes of Emre Can/Gini Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana supporting the attacking trio, then they will have the players and the numbers needed to cause them trouble and a repeat of the Spurs performance could be on the cards for Chelsea.
Target the Chelsea full-backs
Many will say teams should be looking to pin back the Chelsea full-backs. Sometimes this is the case: limit their attacking threat and have them in their own third so you’re able to exploit their defensive weaknesses. However, this can also work in Chelsea’s favour.
They get behind behind the ball and two clear lines become visible. A back five shielded by a line of four. When they’re in this shape, it’s almost impossible to break the lines and Liverpool have trouble doing so against teams with an inferior defence; against Chelsea they’d have very little chance.
What Liverpool need to do is take advantage of the full-backs and their attacking tendencies. The home side will have to control the space and it will be big test to see whether or not they have the players to do so. It takes patience and intelligence to lull the opposition into a false sense of security. Let them think they’re attacking when really you’re positioning them in an area that you can take advantage of.
Show a bit of variety
Liverpool aren’t a one-dimensional side. They can dominate the ball but they are also capable of playing a counter-attacking style. Against both Manchester United and Manchester City, the Reds sat deep and looked to pick off the opposition on the break. Against Middlesbrough, they showed they aren’t averse to playing the ball long and exploiting the pace they possesses. Switching it up during the match against Chelsea may cause Conte a few headaches.
It’s going to be a tactical battle for sure. Can Klopp keep up the good run of form he’s shown against the league’s top six which has seen him lose just the one game during his time at Anfield? It would well be the all important win which sparks their 2017 into life.
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