Following an entertaining encounter in the Carabao Cup third round, fans will be treated to another clash between Chelsea and Liverpool, this time at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, on Saturday.
The Blues emerged with a 2-1 victory to dump Jurgen Klopp’s side out of the domestic competition with Eden Hazard taking the plaudits after an incredible winning goal at Anfield.
Here, we look at the key tactics Klopp could employ to get the better of Maurizio Sarri this time.
Liverpool allowed Cesc Fabregas too much time and space during the first half of their defeat at Anfield. The Spaniard was able to dictate play and regularly got the attack moving by finding Cesar Azpilicueta on the touchline or playing a quick pass through to Ross Barkley between the lines.
Klopp ensured Fabinho got closer to the playmaker in the second period and it was effective as Liverpool were afforded two one-on-one scenarios with Willy Caballero, stemming from Chelsea’s mistakes as a result. Jorginho should start in that role this time around and the Reds must exert that sort of pressure on him.
THREAT IN BEHIND
Sadio Mane was the only representative of Liverpool’s famous front three who started in the cup clash. Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri are by no means sluggish, but the attack still lacked a bit of zip and movement in the absence of Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
Chelsea employ a dangerously high line and Mane was able to get in behind on a number of occasions, but the threat could’ve been doubled had Salah been operating on the opposite flank as well. Firmino’s movement is equally crucial, though.
While Sturridge offers a different dimension in attack and is more of a goalscorer, the Brazilian has a knack for pulling defenders out of position and linking up play to get the best out of Mane and Salah.
Virgil van Dijk is a major injury doubt for Liverpool’s Premier League fixture at Chelsea this weekend.
Liverpool’s record signing aggravated a rib problem in the Reds’ 3-0 victory over Southampton last week and has not trained with the first team since, so Dejan Lovren could start at the back at Stamford Bridge.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum have recovered from a knock and illness, respectively, for a game in which manager Jurgen Klopp will bring back his regulars after fielding a largely second string side in a Carabao Cup defeat to the Blues in midweek.
Provisional squad: Alisson, Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Lovren, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Milner, Keita, Salah, Firmino, Mane, Clyne, Matip, Moreno, Henderson, Fabinho, Shaqiri, Solanke, Sturridge.
An interesting debate emerged this week among Liverpool fans as to which team from the club’s recent history was the most talent-rich.
Indeed, former Everton and Manchester United boss David Moyes, of all people, was the one to spark the discussion while on punditry duty as he said: “You look back at teams over the years at Liverpool and they had great teams, when it was (Xabi) Alonso, (Javier) Mascherano, (Steven) Gerrard and (Fernando) Torres up front. This is a good Liverpool team as well – I don’t know if it’s quite as good as that team at that time.”
It got us thinking, from the last two decades, split into four clear eras, which manager possessed the best XI?
Was it the treble-winning Gerard Houllier team of the early ’00s? Perhaps the Rafa Benitez inspired ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ side? Maybe, it’s the most recent iterations represented by Brendan Rodgers’ nearly men or Jurgen Klopp’s current crop.
We’ve gone through and analysed the best XIs for each manager comprised of players to have featured for them during their time in charge of the club.
GERARD HOULLIER (1998-2004)
4-4-2: Sander Westerveld; Markus Babbel, Sami Hyypia, Stephane Henchoz, Jamie Carragher; Gary McAllister, Dietmar Hamann, Steven Gerrard, Danny Murphy; Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen
DEF: 7/10 – MID: 6.5/10 – ATT: 8/10 = TOTAL: 21.5/30
Liverpool’s success in the modern era can be traced back and attributed to the outstanding work of Gerard Houllier. If you look at the squad the Frenchman inherited in comparison to the one he left behind, the contrast is stark.
Sander Westerveld was an excellent shot stopper although error-prone toward the end of his career, but in front of him Sami Hyypia was one of Europe’s most consistent centre-backs and formed a fearsome partnership with Stephane Henchoz.
Jamie Carragher was instrumental at left-back and in midfield another local legend emerged under Houllier. Steven Gerrard flourished as an archetypal box-to-box midfielder and hallmarked Houllier’s era.
Robbie Fowler represented the last remnants of the ‘Spice Boys’ and cannot be ignored despite falling out with the Frenchman and of course there is Michael Owen who developed into the world’s best player during that famous 2000/2001 campaign.
RAFA BENITEZ (2004-2010)
4-3-1-2: Pepe Reina; Steve Finnan, Daniel Agger, Jamie Carragher, John Arne Riise; Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso; Luis Garcia, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt
DEF: 6/10 – MID: 9/10 – ATT: 8/10 = TOTAL: 23/30
That midfield trio. Still to this day it is incomprehensible Benitez forced Xabi Alonso out of the club because in the mid ’00s, Liverpool possessed three imperial midfielders who reigned as arguably the best trio in world football.
The Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard and Alonso midfield axis was a blend sweeter than sugar with their abilities providing a real kick.
Gerrard was much more refined under Benitez, matching tactical acumen to his superhuman physical abilities. Alonso was a master of tempo and a pristine passer of the ball, Mascherano a monster.
Then there is the Spanish spearhead of Fernando Torres, the true golden boy of the Benitez era and Kop idol.
Elsewhere, Pepe Reina developed into one of Euorpe’s most assured goalkeepers and for a long time solved a huge problem area. Admittedly, there were defensive deficiencies despite Jamie Carragher’s presence.
Luis Garcia and Dirk Kuyt warrant mentions, too, for their propensity to plunder pivotal goals.
BRENDAN RODGERS (2012-2015)
4-3-1-2: Pepe Reina; Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Jamie Carragher, Jon Flanagan; Lucas, Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho; Raheem Sterling; Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge
DEF: 5/10 – MID: 8/10 – ATT: 9/10 = TOTAL: 22/30
A forward line which wrecked backline,s but a defence which was torn up by opposing attackers.
The running theme throughout Brendan Rodgers’ reign was that of his “Ferrari forwards and Daewoo defenders”.
We’ll start with the good.
Raheem Sterling’s flexibility either out wide or at the tip of a diamond was the finest example of both Rodgers’ tactical intelligence and ability to nurture young talent.
Daniel Sturridge enjoyed the best season of his career during the 2013/14 title charge, a campaign which saw Gerrard drop deeper, and before Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho carried the team’s star quality.
Naturally, the Uruguayan is the standout and you would be hard pressed to find any Liverpool fan who doesn’t consider him as one of the club’s greatest ever.
He was truly among the elite and while there have been players to match the level of at least one of his best traits, none have married them together quite in the way he did.
His fierce desire, phenomenal work rate, cutting creativity and sublime finishing will long be remembered. However, that same sentiment cannot be shared for the defence during this period.
JURGEN KLOPP (2015-present)
4-3-3: Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson; Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho, Georginio Wijnaldum; Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah
DEF: 8.5/10 – MID: 7/10 – ATT: 9.5/10 = TOTAL: 25/30
Under the previous regimes, the theme for each was that of underdogs.
But under Klopp the dynamic has shifted because now the expectation is that Liverpool mount a serious title challenge, rather than aim to upset the elite.
If you look at the side right now, it is among the very best in world football and that is even discounting new signings like Naby Keita and Fabinho given the small sample size with which to examine them.
Alisson is the only exception as the Brazil goalkeeper is so obviously better than the two previous No1s under Klopp; Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius.
At the back is where the real contrast lies because Klopp possesses two flying full-backs in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson.
Dejan Lovren has improved significantly alongside tower of strength Virgil van Dijk, who has almost single-handedly transformed Liverpool’s frailties.
Moving into midfield there will be hot debate on Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum’s inclusion but given James Milner hasn’t had enough playing time at centre-mid, it’s hard to justify his inclusion.
The front three is undoubtedly the best Liverpool have possessed in the modern era.
Since the start of last season, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have combined to score more than a century of goals and each brings an unique trait to an attack which blitzes defences.