Liverpool will take on Chelsea this Sunday at Anfield, where victory for the Reds will take them one step closer to their dream of lifting the Barclays Premier League for the first time in 24 years and likewise defeat for the Blues will eliminate their faint hopes of winning the league as well.
Well all the hype of a potential title decider has been put to bed, by none other than Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who insisted that he would field a weakened team against Liverpool, as the Portuguese shifts all his focus on the Champions League.
Chelsea are five points behind Liverpool, so even if they win the match, they’ll not be in control of their own destiny. On the other hand, after a statement draw at Vicente Calderon in the first leg against Atletico Madrid, the Blues have a great chance to reach the Champions League final again.
Still, from Liverpool’s perspective, this game holds massive importance. We take a look at three key tactical battles for this tie.
Set piece threat from Liverpool
Under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool have been making a blitzkrieg start, unsettling the opposition very early. This season, the problem of scoring from set pieces has been dealt with great aplomb as a result of which Liverpool defenders have equally enjoyed a good goal scoring record along with their strikers. Martin Skrtel is the league’s top scoring defender and the Slovakian will fancy his chances against Chelsea, who will be without their inspirational skipper John Terry.
Matic to dominate the midfield
Liverpool will miss Jordan Henderson badly for this game. Rodgers would have asked him to pressurise Nemanja Matic, who is certain to play as he is cup tied and will miss Champions League action, but in the absence of the England international, the Serbian holding midfielder might boss the midfield around.
Chelsea wing play crucial
Unlike Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City, expect Chelsea to drop deeper at Anfield, which means Liverpool may have to set their game plan based on long period of possession football as Michael Cox notes – “the home side might get less joy with pace in behind the defence.”
In that situation, Liverpool full-backs Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan will be tempted to move high up the pitch and help in the attacking build-ups, and this might open up opportunities for sharp counterattacks from Chelsea wingers.