Tactical View: Can Chelsea expose Liverpool’s areas of weakness?

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TACTICAL football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) gives us the lowdown on Super Sunday's blockbuster between Chelsea and Liverpool.

Chelsea v Liverpool | Sunday 22nd September 2019, 16:30 | Sky Sports

Chelsea take on table-toppers Liverpool in a heavyweight clash at Stamford Bridge on Super Sunday, as both sides look to respond to disappointing defeats in their opening Champions League games.

In the league, Liverpool are looking to stretch their winning run to 15, whilst free-scoring Chelsea will be aiming to build on an impressive 5-2 victory away at Wolves last weekend.

Areas to attack Liverpool

Despite Liverpool’s red-hot start to the season, their last two games have highlighted areas where they could be concerned defensively.

Although Newcastle only achieved an Expected Goals (xG) tally of 0.29, the opening goal highlighted how the Reds defence could be targeted, and was something Napoli looked to capitalise on in Naples.

With full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson expected to overlap and provide an important attacking outlet, it often leaves Liverpool with just two centre-backs at the back.

Arsenal tried to attack this through Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang through the middle against Liverpool, and if it wasn’t for poor finishing, should’ve eventually scored. Newcastle learnt from this as they employed similar tactics on the break, and their opening goal came as a result of this.

Joelinton occupied the centre-backs, and was joined by wide midfielder Christian Atsu who, along with Miguel Almiron, attempted to drift centrally throughout the game to try and offer support up front.

This gave Alexander-Arnold a worry at right-back, as Jetro Willems provided an overlap down the left flank, meaning he was left with a two-on-one. His one-v-one defending in recent weeks has been questionable, and Willems eased past him, firing home the opener.

Napoli created the majority of their chances by committing men forward in a similar fashion against Liverpool, and looked to employ a similar tactic. With the Merseysiders front three often not tracking back, their opponents looked to utilise the space in the wide areas and create overloads, and this was evident when Robertson conceded the penalty.

However, tactics employed like this leave opposition vulnerable to Liverpool’s attacking trio on the counter, and they were uncharacteristically wasteful on Tuesday, whilst coming up against the imperious Kalidou Koulibaly at the back.

Chelsea’s shift to three-at-the-back

This could play into Chelsea’s hands, who have adopted a 3-5-2 in their two recent matches. Unfortunate in defeat against Valencia, the Blues boasted an xG of 2.87 as they created plenty of chances for the second game running.

The switch to three at the back may have been in part down to Emerson’s injury, however Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta both look more suited to playing in a back three. Whilst Fikayo Tomori has come in and impressed, however they are still yet to keep a clean sheet this season, conceding twice at Wolves.

The back five will be better equipped to deal with Liverpool’s front three than a back four, and offers more cover to Chelsea’s high press, which often sees Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic caught out of position.

Mason Mount is an injury doubt, which will be a big miss given his fast start to the season. However, despite his penalty miss on Tuesday, Ross Barkley is a capable replacement, who offers good work rate going back as well.

Frank Lampard’s men will look to target the areas identified in Liverpool’s defence, and with Tammy Abraham’s pace, and the wingers movement often drifting inside – in particular Pedro (a tactic that led to him creating four chances away at Manchester United) – they will fancy their chances of getting on the scoresheet.

Playing with wing-backs will also help Chelsea going forward, as this will give them an out ball out wide, avoiding the congested middle of the pitch where Fabinho is often imperious.

The betting angles

The aforementioned high press will leave Chelsea very open, even with an extra man at the back, and once again Jorginho will be a vulnerable option to be carded.

Two yellow cards in four games, the Italian international is often left open in the midfield if the Chelsea press is broken. He has been dribbled past on average 1.80 times per-game this season, and coming up against the fast attack of Liverpool, he looks temptingly priced at 11/4 (Betway) to be carded.

Staying on the card betting, using the same logic above, rather than identifying one player to be booked, Chelsea to have more players booked than Liverpool is priced at 6/4 (Bet365). Liverpool have only picked up two yellow cards in five games to Chelsea’s eight, and if the Blues have to come out and chase the game at any point, this makes it an even more tempting prospect.

Finally, given the open nature of the game that is expected, plus the underlying attacking statistics of both sides, Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (5/6 Bet365) strikes great appeal at Stamford Bridge, with entertainment once again expected to be the order of the day.

Best Bets

Chelsea v Liverpool – Jorginho to be carded (11/4 Betway)

Chelsea v Liverpool – Chelsea 0 Card Handicap (6/4 Bet365)

Chelsea v Liverpool – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (5/6 Bet365)

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