Liverpool face Chelsea on Sunday in a game that could define this season’s Premier League title race as they remain locked in a neck-and-neck battle with Man City.
Chelsea are the toughest opponent Jurgen Klopp’s side have to face in their title run-in.
Here’s a look at the tactics Klopp could use in this pivotal clash. Check out our analysis of Chelsea’s tactics here.
FABINHO TO MAN-MARK HAZARD
Fabinho’s greatest asset is the way he can control the game in midfield, with his passing and vision. But in a game where Liverpool are likely to have less possession, the Brazilian may have a different role on Sunday.
Someone who has been trusted at centre-back and fullback earlier in his career can be relied upon for his defensive ability. Perhaps Klopp could ask Fabinho to put those skills to use against Eden Hazard?
Hazard has struggled to shrug off the attentions of a man-marker before, most famously on two separate occasions against Manchester United, so Klopp would know it’s a strategy that works.
Stopping Hazard is the key to stopping Chelsea given the Belgian’s current form. It would be a tough task for Fabinho, but potentially, a match-winning one.
LIVERPOOL PRESS COULD KNOCK JORGINHO OFF HIS STRIDE
The other key to knocking Chelsea off their stride is to limit the influence of midfielder Jorginho. Plenty of teams this season have prevented the Blues from being at their best by paying close attention to the Italian as he tries to dictate the course of the game.
Roberto Firmino usually leads the Liverpool press with aplomb, and when he isn’t haranguing Chelsea’s defenders he’ll no doubt be looking to put Jorginho under pressure. With some help from Liverpool’s midfielders – Jordan Henderson’s advanced role will bring him in close proximity to his Chelsea counterpart – Firmino could help stop the Blues’ attacks at source.
Between that, and paying close attention to Hazard, Liverpool could have a winning formula defensively – while their attackers run riot when they get the chance.
Chelsea travel to Liverpool on Sunday with a chance to pick up crucial points in the Premier League‘s top four race – as well as having a huge influence in the destination of this season’s title, as they could derail their rivals’ trophy hopes.
Manager Maurizio Sarri will be looking to keep Liverpool’s famous counter-attack at bay while maximising his side’s attacking prowess in this pivotal game.
Here’s a look at the tactics that could help the Italian achieve that goal. Check out our tactical preview of Liverpool’s gameplan as well.
KANTE’S ENERGY WILL PROVIDE DEFENSIVE COVER
Chelsea have faced plenty of difficulty this season against exactly the sort of tactics Liverpool will employ: high-pressing, counter-attacking teams have prospered by soaking up the pressure of the Blues’ possession before striking quickly when the opportunity arises.
Sarri won’t change his fundamental system in a game of this magnitude, but within the 4-3-3, possession-heavy set-up, there are tweaks he can make to have Chelsea prepared for Liverpool’s counter-attack.
N’Golo Kante’s ability to cover ground and mop up defensively will be crucial. Though he plays on the right of Sarri’s three-man midfield, expect him to provide cover against Mohamed Salah down Chelsea’s left whenever he’s needed – and of course, he’ll have his hands full with Sadio Mane as well.
Kante is used to putting in match-winning performances in big games – this could be another.
MATCH HAZARD UP AGAINST ALEXANDER-ARNOLD
Allowing Eden Hazard the freedom to roam within Chelsea’s system has been the strategy that’s brought both the player and the team success when executed well this season. Though there’s no reason for Sarri to change that, perhaps both he and Hazard will spot an opportunity in this particular game.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has had an excellent season, but he also hasn’t had to face a player of Hazard’s quality too often. And there have been times in the past where his defensive ability has come under scrutiny in match-ups like this.
Though Hazard loves to drift all across the pitch, looking to isolate himself against the Liverpool right-back might give him the best chance to prosper in this game. Liverpool will clog up the middle in order to reduce his effectiveness. Stretching them by targeting Alexander-Arnold would be the best way to counter.
Unai Emery has defended the mentality of his Arsenal squad as they continue to struggle away from home.
The Gunners have won only five of their 15 Premier League games on the road this season, with three of those victories coming at the sides in the relegation zone.
In stark contrast, results at the Emirates Stadium have been good enough to keep Emery’s side in contention for a top-four finish.
Their home record – losing just once in front of their own fans all season and only title challengers Manchester City and Liverpool boasting a better run – means a rare away win at Watford on Monday night will put a return to the top four back in their own hands.
Such a difference in results has become commonplace for Arsenal in recent years, with only four away wins in Arsene Wenger’s final season.
But Emery has refused to point the finger at his players and believes their position in the table proves they are getting better as his first campaign in charge progresses.
Asked if poor results away from home were due to a psychological problem, the Spaniard replied: “But we are fourth at the moment and we are playing to be in the top four.
“I think we are showing we are competitive and have a good mentality. Our mentality, we need to continue improving with a process.
“This team have a good mentality and they are improving, we are improving and the table is giving us this answer – we are improving.
“We can see two things, one is the amazing response at home, big matches and big results and away we are doing sometimes good matches.
“We are playing some matches and being competitive but in other moments the opposition, they are being more competitive than us and they battle us but each match is a new challenge and response for us – starting Monday.”
After starting the season with defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea and with Arsenal finishing outside the Champions League places in the last two years, Emery is pleased to be heading into the final six league games of the season with the top four still in reach.
“Each match gives us a big challenge for the possibility to improve and take three points and the possibility to end the season in the top four,” he added.
“For us that would be a big success. When we started last in the table after the first two matches in the season we were thinking about arriving in this moment with the possibility of being in the top four in our hands.”
Provided by Press Association Sport