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Saturday, January 20, 2007

How will Rafael Benitez attack Essien and Carvalho?

Last season one of the shock scorelines was Chelsea's three-nil away defeat in February to Middlesbrough. The in-depth analysis made by Sky's Chris Kamara of this match was superb. He showed that Steve McClaren had deliberately instructed Yakubu to be on Ricardo Carvalho with the aim that Boro's defence would launch long ball after long ball in the direction of the Nigerian striker. The plan worked perfectly: the well-built Boro forward predictably out-muscled the Portugese defender which resulted in a couple of the goals that was scored. Meanwhile the indomitable John Terry was looking on like a helpless by-stander as his centre-back partner was given a really rough time.

At Anfield this lunchtime there will be only Carvalho as a recognised centre-back in the Chelsea defence. With Terry and Boulahrouz injured and Gallas and Huth gone the 'billionaire club' is in the incongruos position of likely having to resort to playing compact midfielder Michael Essien at centre-back. If Carvalho was having problems with the high ball at the Riverside last year, I think that Essien could have an equally bad time tomorrow. For Benitez' master-plan for this match should be to do with emulating McClaren and targeting the aerial weakness of the makeshift Chelsea centre-back pairing.

Benitez is not afraid to play aerial-ball football: indeed the signing of Peter Crouch was primarily for this purpose. I expect Crouch to start tomorrow so that Chelsea's apparent achilles heel can be given a full test. Crouch does not have the muscle of Yakubu but his sheer height advantage will mean that he should win the majority of long balls played in his direction. Then it will be up to Liverpool to maximise the knock-downs that come their way around the box.

Gerrard will be a chief threat in this regard, and the fact that he will be attacking the box from a central position can only be a positive thing for this potential tactic. I also think that Kuyt's greater physical presence means he is probably a better option than Bellamy in going for this 'direct-football' option . Kuyt has an excellent Anfield scoring record and I have a feeling that he will be on the score-sheet today.

This is my feeling for the strategy and personnel that Benitez will opt for and I think it is one that will pay-off with a couple of Liverpool goals. We'll see... and lets hope for an overall exciting encounter.

P.S. It will be excellent to see the return of Chelsea's Petr Cech in goal. His injury was truly life-threatening and to make a comeback within three months is an outstanding testament of his strength of character. We at EFT wish him a safe return to competitive action.


Anonymous magnumopus said...

I agree with this article...

Another question is how will we handle Drogba and Robben at the other end?

1/20/2007 10:31 am

Blogger T said...

Good question Magnumopus... kick-off is very soon so we'll soon find out.

By the way the teamnews is in and Benitez is starting with the strike-force that I anticipated. Major news is that Carvalho is out with a temperature meaning that right-back Ferreira is going to be in the centre... surely making a Liverpool aerial attack more of a likely strategy.

1/20/2007 12:18 pm

Blogger SKG said...

spot on T with your thoughts. it was a comfortable win for liverpool in the end. chelsea were really struggling without terry and carvalho. arsenal's two wins against the reds just goes to show how impressive they were because liverpool are in great form at the mo. they've given themselves a great chance to finish 2nd. it will be interesting . . .

1/20/2007 5:32 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Well....pretty good thoughts there T...and backed up by the result. I think Blindjak's team have some reorganisation to do! Chelsea seemed to expect to lose...led by the manager's body language.

Liverpool on the other hand...strangely...they played with gusto...reassurance and great passing football...did they learn something from the Gunners in defeat? Tongue in cheek of course...

I'm sure Redsman has a fantastic wrapup waiting to all I'll say is...Chelsea were a sieve with their defenders...for the first 30 mins...and that was enough to lose the match.

1/21/2007 9:26 am

Blogger T said...

Thanks SKG and Nturtle... if only all my predictions were like this one!

I will also wait for Redman's weekend review but Nturtle sums up it just as I would... the game was effectively over after the first quarter of the match.... and what a confidence boost it must have been for Benitez and his team when they saw that Carvalho was also out.

1/21/2007 11:52 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spot on! Thing is they didn't even have Carvalho...

1/21/2007 12:49 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Indeed I do, nturtle, for I have some time finally to do a review.


1/21/2007 12:56 pm

Blogger BlindJak said...

Nturtle, your comment “Chelsea seemed to expect to lose” was spot on. For the first time under Jose’s stewardship I saw a team that had zero confidence and zero belief, which is more worrying than the actual loss. Liverpool played well, clinically exploited our weakness, and thoroughly deserved their win.

While the gap of 6 points remains the same I have to say I’m dead worried about our chances of a third in a row. I can see Utd bouncing back from their loss to win 5 or 6 in a row but the lack of belief in our game makes me worry for the long term confidence of the team. Come to think of it, I’m worried about holding onto second spot after this display!

On a smaller side note, the press love to make a big deal of the managers not shaking hands after the match but I haven’t seen one comment anywhere that they shock hands after the game. After some of the acrimony of the past surely this should have been given a small measure of positive comment.

1/22/2007 10:14 am

Blogger T said...

BlindJak, what is your sense about Mourinho staying after the end of this season? For me he is deliberately being equivocal about his future at the club and Kenyon's 'healthy tension' euphemism is indicative that there are sharp differences of opinion within the club.

Personally, although I couldn't see it a month ago, it now would come as no real surprise to me to see Mourinho decide to go at the end of the season. When you have a significant tension with your boss and am not afraid to betray this publicly it indicates that he may have accepted in his own mind that he is on his way out.

1/22/2007 10:21 pm

Blogger BlindJak said...

I think there is still a possibility that he’ll stay but it all depends on Roman. Jose is nobody’s lap dog and demands total control of his fiefdom. Roman may be the owner and banker but Jose is the lord of the manor and things are done his way. If Roman can not adapt to this the Jose will simply walk and, as has already been said in the press, will not be short of a few decent job offers.

Personally I think this would be criminal negligence on Roman’s part as history shows it’s not only money that brings success (although it does make it easier). Just about all the Chelsea fans I know hold Jose in the highest regard as a coach and would not swap him for another.

If the last game of the season was this weekend I would probably lay money on Jose leaving. However there is still more than enough time to turn things round and improve relations, so who knows?

1/23/2007 9:58 am

Blogger T said...

Thanks BlindJak... from my 'Gunners point of view' to see Mourinho leave would be no bad thing at all.. and this kind of underlines what I think his impact for the club has been. I agree that you are right to say it would be a case of Chelsea/Abramovich shooting themselves in the foot if they didn't do their best to keep him.

1/23/2007 3:32 pm


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