How Liverpool can still beat Chelsea to reach Champions League semifinals
13 April 2009 02:22
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1 Employ their midfield generals
At Anfield Chelsea dominated midfield with both work rate and exceptional passing. Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack showcased the modern midfielder's art in tidying up in front of defence and surging forward to launch attacks at will.
Lucas was out of his depth in that environment but Javier Mascherano, who is back for the return leg, is unlikely to be as easily bullied and if he and Xabi Alonso can shut down Ballack and Lampard and use what possession Liverpool have effectively they will be in a better position to dictate play.
2 Free Stevie G
Rafa Benitez needs to be bold. After Fernando Torres, the most reliable source of the three or more goals Liverpool need is Steven Gerrard.
If fit, the Liverpool captain must be pushed forward to support Torres more closely in a 4-4-2 formation, with Gerrard playing the support striker – leaving Mascherno and Alonso to take care of business in the middle – and his goal threat will be increased. Michael Essien, should he be asked to do another man marking job on Gerrard, would also be forced further back and inevitably wander into Chelsea defenders' territory where responsibility to pick up Gerrard would become confused.
3 Get in the zone
While Liverpool need to score, conceding will make life even more difficult. Losing two goals to simple set pieces at Anfield questioned the wisdom of Benitez's zonal marking system. Should Liverpool persist with it they need to communicate better when players run across their space to avoid a repeat of Branislav Ivanovic's almost free headers.
Chelsea are a bigger side than Liverpool – despite the absence through suspension of John Terry – and so Sami Hyypia's presence in place of Martin Skrtel, who had a shocker in the first leg, might improve things in that department, though with a loss of pace on the ground. Better still, abandon the ploy and revert to man-to-man marking, just this once.
4 Win their personal battles
At Anfield Skrtel was bullied in to submission by Didier Drogba, Essien had Gerrard in his pocket all night while Ashley Cole, Lampard and Ballack reminded us all of their quality and even Florent Malouda justified his starting place.
With Terry absent and his likely replacement, Richard Carvalho, just back from injury to partner the less assured Alex, Torres can make hay with his fleetness of movement and thought. If Liverpool do go 4-4-2 then Albert Riera needs to ask questions defensively of Ivanovic, while Dirk Kuyt is capable of harrying Cole to distraction. Alonso and Mascherano need to claim the midfield off Ballack and Lampard. Simple, eh?
5 Evoke the spirit of Istanbul
As chastening an experience as the first leg was, this Liverpool side is not one that is easily broken and they have already gone to the home of the European and Premier League Champions and won by three goals this season in the sacking of Old Trafford.
They may have only twice scored three goals or more at Stamford Bridge in competitive matches and failed to win any of their Champions League fixtures there but what's three goals in 90 minutes to a club who pulled off the trick in six minutes in a Champions League final?