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Liverpool vs Chelsea

Rory Fitzgerald

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Sunday April 21st. Kick off 4pm

Live on Sky Sports 1



The main reason for doing this blog was to highlight some statistics about the lesser lights of the Premiership to give the reader a guide as to what the forthcomming game might hold for the Reds as has been done for the recent write-ups against Villa, West Ham and Reading. Given that most people will have a good idea of what the strenghts & weaknesses of Chelsea there is not alot that this preview will be able 'uncover' about Chelsea ahead of this game.


Given that Rafa is their manager, it will come as no surprise that there are differences in their line-up & approach depending on if they are home or away and also the opposition. The purpose of outlining their recent set up at home & away (below) is to show these differences. The Chelsea that plays at home seem to be a more open outfit whereas the team that plays away could be considered tighter. The differences I see are in the back line and in the 'attacking trio'.



Chelsea at home


  • Azpilicueta has played the last 6 games at RB.
  • David Luiz has played in 5 of the last 6 games largely at CB.
  • Hazard, Mata, Oscar played in 2 of last 3 home games.
  • Ramires played last 3 home games with Lampard in midfield.
  • Mikel has only played 1 of the last 6 home games with Rafa picking 2 from Ramires, Lampard and Luiz to hold midfield.


The following graphic shows the average position of the Chelsea players in their last 3 home games. Given that these games were at home against 'average-ish' opposition, they dominated possession and could push the backline high up the pitch. The average position of Bertrand/Cole on the left seems higher than Azpilicueta suggesting that more attacking was down done the left.


However, the most noticeable aspect of these 3 graphics is how narrow they are in attack. Whilst Chelsea's best attacking players have a propensity to come in-field, I would not take the graphics literally (i.e. that they are always standing on each others toes). I think the graphics above highlight a certain tactical fluidity at home. By allowing them to float & interchange in these areas, the average position of each player is almost the same.


Chelsea have won their last 5 home games including the 3 games below.






Chelsea in away games


  • Azpilicueta and Luiz have only played together in 1 of the last 6 away games together.
  • If Luiz plays, Ivanovic generally replaces Azpilicueta and provides more stability at RB. If Azpilicueta plays and provides more of an attacking option at RB then Luiz generally drops out and one of Cahill or Terry comes in to partner Ivanovic at CB.
  • Ivanovic has been the one constant in the Chelsea defence when they play away, either at CB but recently at RB,
  • Lampard has started the last 6 away games. Mikel has come in for 2 of the last 3 away games but for the 3 games before that he was on the bench.


The following graphic shows the average position of the Chelsea players in their last 3 away games. Away from home, the average positions of the attacking players suggest a more tactically disciplined approach as the players hold their positions somewhat more than at home. One important difference in their away games is that their 'attacking trio' has included one of either Bertrand or Ramires which provides the team with more width, higher work rate off the ball and some more protection.


Despite setting up with an extra defensively focused defender in the back line and a less attacking trio, Chelsea have lost their last 3 away games.





Whether its Luiz that is high or Cahill that is deep, there does seem to be an element of 'disconnect' between the average position of the center halves in the away game at Man City which is also evident in the home game against WBA. Given that Luiz plays on the left of the defence, which is the side they may attack more down (based on the average position of the left back which is higher than the right back i.e. this player is higher as they are on the attack more down this side), it is not unreasonable that Rafa would look to tightened things on that side in away games by bringing in Terry or Cahill. As mentioned above, if Luiz does play in away games, its been the case recently that Ivanovic will switch to right back to replace Azpilicueta which I would view as a stronger defensive option.

Here is an example of the tactical discipline of Hazard in a recent home game vs Sunderland and then away at City. In the Sunderland game, his heat map shows a roaming player. Whereas the City game shows a player more disciplined in holding his position on the left.




CAVEAT: On a neutral pitch at Wembley against Man City, Benitez did field Azpilicueta & Luiz in the same defence and his 3 attacking midfielders (Oscar, Mata and Hazard) so he is not totally adverse to the idea of playing a more open game against tough opposition away from Stamford Bridge.


Rafa on rotation;

If ever a question was right up somebody’s street it’s the one the photographer asks Rafa Benitez: an innocent inquiry into the science behind rotation. “Wait,” Benitez beams, barrelling off to fetch his MacBook and a bulging wallet of papers. He produces a printout demonstrating how a player’s output declines by game three of any sequence of matches.



One thing that the above analysis has highlighted is that Chelsea's squad permits such rotation, whereas in recent games, Liverpool's ability to change it has become more and more restricted. Lately, the main decision has been which 3 of Coutinho, Sturridge, Henderson or Downing should start. After that, does Carra keep his place over Skrtel. Chelsea on the other hand can rotate every position on the pitch - though the one player they should avoid rotation is Juan Mata.


Juan Mata

Mata's position has changed in the past year. He was largely played on the left under Villa Boas, but was shifted into a central attacking midfield role under Di Matteo. In the FA Cup Final last year, Jay Spearing was pitched against him and was overrun with Mata winning the Man of the Match award. After Spearing's miscontrol, Mata picked up the stray ball, drove into the space and slipped the ball down the side of Enrique for Ramires to get in for the 1st goal. Since Rafa has come in, Mata has been encouraged even further forward;

"With Rafa, I'm playing more like a striker still, which has given me the chance to add more goals and assists. He's always telling me to push forward, forward, forward"


Mata has 10 goals and 10 assists so far in the league this season with 8 of his goals coming in away games. He is almost like the orchaetrator within their team as he has made more passes than anyone else in the team. Almost 50% more than Ramires who has played the same no. of games as him and almost 50% more than Lampard & Mikel (though they haven't played as many games). He also has more assists than any other player in the league. Here is one of his finer assists this season in the FA Cup against United. As Ba makes his move, he clips the ball over 3 midfielders and into the space behind Ferdinand.





Mata has the 3rd highest chance conversion rate in the league. He has attempted 38 shots in the league so far this season, 22 of these shots have hit the target, an average shot accuracy of 58%. Just under half of these on target attempts have ended up in the back of the net, scoring 10 times in the league. A chance conversion of 26.3%. He has contributed 31% of Chelsea's away goals. Also worthy of mention is his playing partner, Eden Hazard who has 8 goals and 8 assists in the league.


Squad & Subs

In the last 6 Premier League games, Rafa has used all his 3 subs. The last time Rodgers used all 3 subs was 7 games ago when Liverpool were grandstanding against Swansea in the 5-0 win - unfortunately Borini got a season ending injury in that game which cut down the managers options to rotate or use him as a sub. I think this highlights the lack of depth in Rodgers squad.


Their line-up

We are used to Rafa as manager adapting his team based on the relative strengths & weaknesses of the opposition. Consequently, the following line-up tries to take this into account. As much as anyone can guess at Rafa's line-up, I will guess as follows;




Ivanovic Terry Luiz Cole


Mikel Lampard


Ramires Mata Hazard




My line of thinking is as follows;


  • Defence Cole should be available but its probably too soon for Cahill. Working on the assumption that both Luiz & Azpilicueta won't start together, Terry can play right side of CB with Luiz at left side and Ivanovic out to right back.
  • Mikel is the most disciplined of the options at DM and we tend to go through the middle alot. Also, it frees up Ramires to play at RM.
  • Ramires can operate on their right (our left) which is a dangerous side for us with Enrique, Coutinho and generally Suarez drifting out there. Ramires's work rate could help disrupt our game from that side whilst also being a threat on the counter attack. It was from this position that he broke to score the opening goal in the FA Cup Final last year.
  • Hazard generally starts games left of the trio but is strong on both feet. He could start left to try exploit any spaces left by Johnson and its also Carra's side which might be more susceptible to a creative attacking player like Hazard.
  • Ba is a presence and someone that can be hit from wide areas. If Chelsea aren't linking well in midfield, there is always the option to try and pop it into him.


In the graphic below, you can see that Torres has 7 goals and 7 assists from 2,194mins of Premiership football whereas in 2,190mins of Premiership football, Ba has 15 goals and 3 assists. Overall Torres has 17 assists with Ba only 4 (though substantially less games). This probably highlights a difference in style between the 2 players in that Torres may drop deeper & wider at times for the team.


Refer to Blog for this graphic: http://roryfitz9.webnode.com/news/liverpool-vs-chelsea/


Only 5 pictures allowed per post in 1 thread


Edit: I made a mistake with the Hazard graphic, its now in the right place.

Edited by Rory Fitzgerald
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should be an interesting atmosphere in the ground for Rafa's return

who will be louder: those singing his name or those barracking the people singing his name?


I'd have thought he'd get a really good reception and nothing else.

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An addition;


Our line-up - Orthodox




Johnson Carra Agger Enrique


Gerrard Lucas Henderson


Downing Suarez Coutinho

  • Given Chelsea’s system, I think we need 3 in midfield so Henderson to start.
  • I don’t see us starting with both Suarez and Sturridge. More protection could come from 2 ‘widemen’.




Our line-up – Unorthodox



Skrtel Carra Agger




Johnson Gerrard Henderson Enrique


Sturridge Suarez

  • Rodgers went 3 at the back at Stamford Bridge. If we want to mitigate against the attacking tendencies of our full-backs and let them do what they do going forward, we could give extra protection at the back.
  • We would then have a midfield 5 which could still cope with Chelsea’s system but give our full/wing backs more licence especially Enrique and Suarez to link up on the left.
  • It also permits 2 strikers and give Sturridge a chance to play against his former team.

Edited by Rory Fitzgerald
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I can see his name being sung for the majority of the game



nah - he'll get a warm welcome but i don't see it being more than that



when Kenny came back with Blackburn he got a 'DALGLISH!' but it was immediately followed by a song for Souness


although if Chelsea fans start barracking him it may get weird

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although if Chelsea fans start barracking him it may get weird

A warm welcome & goodbye. If it's a close match, either way, it'll stay at that. Where it gets weird is if they give him stick at say a 2-0 and we feel compelled to defend him. Or if we're playing 'Ole' football, a 5-0, and singing for him just to wind them up.


What happens at kick-off when we sing for him, he waves & they immediately start barracking him?

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A warm welcome & goodbye. If it's a close match, either way, it'll stay at that. Where it gets weird is if they give him stick at say a 2-0 and we feel compelled to defend him. Or if we're playing 'Ole' football, a 5-0, and singing for him just to wind them up.


What happens at kick-off when we sing for him, he waves & they immediately start barracking him?

What if they are beating us and taunting us ie, "where's your Rafa gone" (I expect that to be the limit of their imagination)?

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Mourinho said don't worry, Chelsea have nothing to fear

But how he went so quiet, when up popped Luis Garcia

His shot it had no power, but then he took his goal

and now he's taking Rafa to Istanbul

Rafael, Rafael, Rafa in Istanbul

Benitez said don't worry, I'll wipe away your tears

Cos Stevie G's a Red and a Red he'll be for years

You can keep your John Terry, stick your Lampard up your ****

Cos Carragher is here and Gerrard's staying ours

Rafael, Rafael, Rafa in Istanbul

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