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Liverpool vs. Chelsea: Tactical Preview of Premier League Blockbuster Clash

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterNovember 7, 2014

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Liverpool host Chelsea in the Premier League's early kick-off on Saturday afternoon, making it three blockbuster fixtures in a row. The fans are being spoiled.

Both sides played midweek UEFA Champions League football, and that will affect their selections and set-up. So, let's take a look at how this game could play out from a tactical perspective.

Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers rested around six key players for the trip to Real Madrid, and despite some impressive performances during the 1-0 loss, it's expected he'll make a sea of changes again.

Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen could all return, with the only possible survivor being Emre Can. Two spots in the defence could be up for grabs, and the front three could change entirely too.

Possible Liverpool XI.
Possible Liverpool XI.@stighefootball

The big question is whether or not Glen Johnson—recently snubbed by England manager Roy Hodgson (due to "not always starting" for Liverpool, per The Telegraph)—will come in for Javi Manquillo.

Whoever plays there faces a maelstrom.

Chelsea

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Jose Mourinho was also able to rest key players midweek, but he'll be furious with the return of just one point from a trip to Slovenia to face Maribor. For the third week in a row, there have been more negatives than positives to speak of.

Diego Costa, Oscar, Gary Cahill and Thibaut Courtois all sat out in the Champions League, so they should be fresh, and it's easy to see all four returning to the XI.

Possible Chelsea XI.
Possible Chelsea XI.@stighefootball

The big question, bar the consistent Willian vs. Andre Schurrle debate, is who starts at full-back. For the first time since Filipe Luis waded into the team, he, Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic are all available.

If you're picking on form, Ivanovic may need to be dropped. He's lapsing defensively and leaving gaps.

Key Point 1: Dealing with Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas hasn't been himself lately. OK, so even the most consistent players have off weeks, but his last few performances have been far from convincing for a few reasons.

Firstly, he was shackled by Marouane Fellaini in Chelsea's draw with Manchester United, and the big Belgian proved a man-marking job of sorts can seriously halt his dominance. Cesc completed less than 15 passes in that first half.

Second, midweek against Maribor, he looked a little disinterested and, perhaps, even lazy. While Nemanja Matic was busy acing every tackle and scoring his side's goal, Cesc lofted about.

Liverpool have players to man-mark Cesc, and they'd be advised to do so, but will Rodgers commit to a "defensive" move given his attacking tendencies? Henderson has the legs, Allen the studiousness and Coutinho the bite.

Key Point 2: Attacking Glen Johnson

Hodgson's omission of Johnson in the England squad is telling. With Nathaniel Clyne playing superbly, Calum Chambers in form for Arsenal and even Joel Ward a more stable contributor at right-back, it could be curtains for the 30-year-old.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid competes with Glen Johnson of Liverpool  during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Liverpool and Real Madrid CF on October 22, 2014 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Al
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Domestically, he's become a target for the fans and for opposing managers; his performance last weekend against Newcastle United was not a strong one at all—positionally, defensively or even from an attacking perspective.

The Reds are caught in a spot where they're either playing someone no longer quite good enough for the role (Johnson) or someone who will be, but who is yet to play 50 professional games (Manquillo). As a result, Liverpool's right-hand side is the area to target.

Eden Hazard is going to have a dribbling party on Saturday, and it won't be a surprise if everything good from Chelsea comes from him, rather than Cesc.

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