19 January 2015

Liverpool v Chelsea 01.20.14

2:45pm ET, live in the US on BeIN Sports

Last four head-to-head:
1-2 Chelsea (h) 11.08.14
0-2 Chelsea (h) 04.27.14
1-2 Chelsea (a) 12.29.13
2-2 (h) 04.21.13

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Villa (a); 1-0 Sunderland (a); 2-1 Wimbledon (a)
Chelsea: 5-0 Swansea (a); 2-0 Newcastle (h); 3-0 Watford (a)

Previous rounds:
Liverpool: 3-1 Bournemouth (a); 2-1 Swansea (h); 2-2 Boro [14-13 pens] (h)
Chelsea: 3-1 Derby (a); 2-1 Shrewsbury (a); 2-1 Bolton (h)

Goalscorers (all):
Liverpool: Gerrard 9; Sterling 6; Lallana 4; Henderson, Lambert 3; Balotelli, Coutinho, Markovic, Moreno 2; Borini, Can, Johnson, Lovren, Rossiter, Skrtel, Sturridge, Suso 1
Chelsea: Costa 17; Hazard 11; Oscar 7; Drogba 6; Schürrle, Terry 5; Fabregas, Remy 4; Matic, Willian 3; Ivanovic, Ramires, Zouma 2; Cahill, Mikel 1

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Guess at a line-up:
Can Skrtel Sakho
Markovic Henderson Lucas Moreno
Gerrard Coutinho

There only seems one question in regards to Liverpool's XI. Will Gerrard or Lallana replace Borini? Both should be available after injuries, and even though Lallana made the bench on Saturday while Gerrard was left out entirely, it'll probably be Gerrard. It's Gerrard, it's Chelsea, it's a semifinal.

Maybe Enrique, who was better in defense than Moreno against Villa, comes into the side. Maybe Manquillo or the supposedly-fit-again Johnson, with Markovic switching to the left. Maybe Borini, with a goal and assist in his last two starts, retains his place. Liverpool will be less open and less attacking, even though tomorrow's match is at Anfield, because it's also the first leg. The last thing Liverpool need will be to chase the game at Stamford Bridge. But if it ain't broke, etc.

And this will be the toughest test since Liverpool's switch to 3-4-2-1. Liverpool haven't beaten Chelsea since a 4-1 win against understrength opposition in May 2012, with two draws and three losses against the Blues since Rodgers became manager. Chelsea remain, by far, the best team in England, with the most goals scored and the fewest conceded in the division. And they haven't conceded a single goal in the three matches since a surprising 3-5 loss at Tottenham on New Year's Day. Which was one of Chelsea's two losses all season.

I have no idea how much Chelsea will rotate, if at all. I suspect Mourinho will pick his strongest line-up – it is a semi-final, it is against Liverpool – but Costa, Courtois, and Ivanovic are yet to start a League Cup match, while Schürrle, Cech, Filipe Luis, Mikel, and Zouma have started all three. And it's not as if Chelsea are lacking in options.

But let's assume it's a full strength XI. Two players are doubtful: Azpilicueta, who missed the Swansea match with a groin injury, and Courtois, who missed the last three matches with a finger injury but should be available. It'd be Courtois/Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Filipe Luis; Fabregas, Matic; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Costa. Which, aside from Courtois, is the same XI which romped over Swansea on Saturday. And, aside from Filipe Luis for Azpilicueta, the same XI which beat Liverpool 1-2 at Anfield in November.

So Liverpool have their work cut out for them, to say the absolute least. Both sides will be cagey, because that's how Chelsea play and because Liverpool will want to be in a reasonable position for the second, even more difficult leg. And that sort of match will favor the away side. But if Liverpool can build on the resilience shown in the last few away matches, build on the link-up play improvement since the switch to 3-4-2-1, and repeat the ability to get Danger Zone shots and convert their opportunities as they did against Villa, Liverpool absolutely have a chance.

Nota Bene: As per usual with weekday matches, there won't be an immediate match review. But because it's a semifinal and because there aren't enough statistics to do a match infographic for League Cup matches, I'll probably eventually write a review. But it'll be very late on Tuesday, if not Wednesday morning.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Great review. You're talented, both as a writer with graphics. What do you do for a living? But more importantly, what do you have to do it during midweek LFC matches?!?!?!