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
Pep Guardiola claims he does not have the “special energy” to emulate Roy Hodgson’s lengthy career.
The Manchester City boss may be regarded as the pre-eminent manager of his generation with 25 trophies to his name, but coaching into his 70s, as Hodgson is now, is something he cannot envisage.
Guardiola will pit his wits against Hodgson, Crystal Palace’s 71-year-old former England boss, as City travel to Selhurst Park this weekend.
Guardiola, 48, said: “You have to have a special energy and I think at 71 – except Roy Hodgson – the others cannot do it. In my case? No way. It’s impossible.
“Roy Hodgson loves it. It’s incredible. When that happens, it’s because he has the passion in himself.
“It’s nice to see him again on Sunday.”
Guardiola spent a year living in New York between his spells in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich and he intends to sample other things in later life.
He said: “I am curious to do other things before I die. I love my job but I am always thinking to do something different.
“There is my wife and family too. Seventy-one? No way.”
Despite that, Guardiola admits he is addicted to the game of football.
He said: “football is always present in the lives of managers, it is so addictive.
“There are so many things to do ahead of the next game – what you have to say to the players, what you have to do in training and there are many things to think about.
“Of course you have time to switch off a little bit, summertime is completely different, but always you are thinking as well. football never finishes.”
Guardiola is coming towards the end of his third season at City and is contracted for two more. What happens beyond that is not yet clear but Guardiola is not thinking about it yet.
He said: “It’s many years. I don’t think (about) that and I don’t have plans. (I’m) just living, having fun and preparing for the next games. Next season and after that we will see.”
Provided by Press Association Sport