Brendan Rodgers has been making some surprising choices as of late, and the result have not been great. Last weekend, he decided to use a 3-5-1-1 formation against Newcastle. Then in the midweek Champions League match against Real Madrid, he benched many of his best players. Both matches ended 1-0 losses.
This weekend however, is the best chance Rodgers gets at turning the season around, a big game against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea at Anfield. The league leaders have been, at full strength, unstoppable. New signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas have taken the Premier League by storm, practically scoring goals for fun.
Rodgers may opt to use a 4-2-3-1 in order to try and control the midfield, but that formation has usually left the striker alone at the top facing both central defenders, which, in this game, are Gary Cahill and John Terry.
That is why I believe a 4-3-3 formation can work against Chelsea as it allows for more movement and space to operate for the Liverpool players. This formation will only work, however, if the players up front help the defense when Liverpool does not have the ball.
It was a much better performance for Simon Mignolet against Madrid, he was assertive and demanding of the players in front of him, even though there were still a couple of communication errors.
The Belgian was forced to make some great saves from Madrid shots and he will have to keep up the effort against Costa and the Chelsea midfield.
Javier Manquillo should keep his place on the side for the upcoming match. The young player was unfazed by Ronaldo and Marcelo, even though he was nutmegged by the latter.
He will be facing another tough opponent in Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s join second leading scorer along with Oscar. Rodgers could decide to use Glen Johnson instead for his experience, but he is well past his prime and Manquillo has shown that he is capable of battling against the best.
Surprisingly Martin Skrtel was the weaker link when he was paired with Kolo Toure in Madrid. Skrtel committed some errors that somehow did not lead to another goal for the Spanish giants. Dejan Lovren should make his return to the starting lineup this weekend and the weeklong rest should have him fully healthy.
Both of the center halves will have to do their best to keep the Premier League‘s leading scorer off the board. Costa is capable of converting the tiniest of chances into a goal and his physical playing style allows him to hold-off defenders for space.
Alberto Moreno was arguably the best outfield player for Liverpool in the last game. He handled James Rodriguez much better this time and he even got forward on a few occasions.
Against Chelsea, he will likely face probably the weakest player in their midfield in Willian. That being said, the Brazilian is still perfectly capable of winning the game for the Blues. One thing that Moreno will have to look out for is the possible substitution of Andre Schurrle into the game at some point during the second half. The World Cup winner is an elite finisher and a tireless worker.
Captain Steven Gerrard and vice-captain Jordan Henderson will return to their spots in the lineup in place Emre Can and Lucas Leiva. Gerrard will be looking to this match in particular after his slip in midfield allowed Demba Ba to score.
Meanwhile, Joe Allen should start again because of his ability to disrupt the opponent’s midfield. The three will have to work together to take control of the game from Fabregas and Nemanja Matic. Fabregas already has 9 assists this season while Matic is physical and capable of breaking-up any threats.
A frontline that can beat the Chelsea back line is one that requires speed, creativity and ruthlessness. That is why I believe that Raheem Sterling, Mario Balotelli, and Philippe Coutinho are the best choices for this match.
Sterling has been the team’s best player so far this season and arguably it’s best finisher. Although he is much maligned, it looks like Rodgers is determined to keep Balotelli in the lineup. Lastly, Coutinho is aggressive and unafraid of trying his luck from outside the penalty box.
He can also come up big in difficult matches as evidenced by his terrific goal against Manchester City last year. If these three work together and make the most out of the few chances they get, they will win the match for Liverpool.