How Chelsea can beat Liverpool in FA Cup Final if Mount exploits Fabinho absence and James targets weary Reds defence

How Chelsea can beat Liverpool in FA Cup Final if Mount exploits Fabinho absence and James targets weary Reds defence


LIVERPOOL face Chelsea in the FA Cup final looking to secure the next part in what could still be an historic quadruple.

While Manchester City have taken the lead in the title race in recent weeks, the Premier League is only one of the four trophies the Anfield club are chasing.

They have already secured the Carabao Cup and now they will face Chelsea in the FA Cup before going to Paris to face Real Madrid, in the Champions League final.

How can the Reds pick up their second trophy? And how can Chelsea pull off a win?

Who is fresher? Chelsea, of course

Despite being one of the fittest teams in European football the sheer volume of fixtures will be taking their toll on the legs of the Liverpool players.

This makes the prospect of facing Chelsea this weekend even more dangerous than it would normally have been.

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Chelsea have not been involved in the latter stages of the Champions League and as a result, they come into this match with a fresher squad.

Under the German coach Thomas Tuchel we have seen Chelsea develop a reputation as one of the most tactically flexible and interesting sides in European football and they will be a match for Liverpool in this match.

Liverpool must be wary of Reece James

The list of top-level English right-backs at the moment feels as though it is almost never-ending.

But you can make a real argument at this stage of the season that the Chelsea right-back Reece James has now eclipsed them all.

James has put in a series of top tier performances in recent weeks.

His ability to control the entire right flank of the pitch allows Tuchel to use his central players in slightly different ways.

In the attacking phase, James will push high and is a threat to stay wide or come into the channels to receive the ball.

From these areas, his crossing and creative passing are a real threat.

A large part of the threat that Liverpool pose comes from the freedom that their fullbacks tend to have to get into higher positions and the movement of their front three in coming narrow. 

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In this match, Andrew Robertson, the Liverpool left-back, will have to be extremely careful when moving high as James is dynamic enough to get forward on the counter to attack the space that the Scottish international fullback leaves behind.

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This does, of course, go both ways and the Liverpool front three will look to attack any space that James leaves them.

Tuchel, however, has a ready-made answer to this threat given that he will play with a back three system with Barcelona-linked Cesar Azpilicueta in the right-sided centre back position.

The Spaniard is of course also capable of playing as a right-back and as such he doesn’t mind being isolated against quick forwards as much as a more established central defender would.

How much will Liverpool miss Fabinho?

The Brazilian international midfielder Fabinho had to limp off in Liverpool’s midweek match against Aston Villa with a muscle injury.

While the early noises coming out of Anfield are positive in terms of him being back in time for the Champions League final it is extremely unlikely that he will play any part in this match.

There are some people who believe that the signing of Fabinho at the start of the 2018/19 season was the final part in terms of Liverpool building a team capable of winning the title.

The Brazilian international holds his position in the centre of the field and is consistently excellent in terms of being positioned in the right place to break up opposition attacks.

The absence of Fabinho in the ‘6’ position for Liverpool in this match is likely to mean that Jordan Henderson will fill that role.

Henderson, however, is more of a pressing player and one that will drift forward and out of the kind of positions that Fabinho tends to retain.

This movement from Henderson will create opportunities for Chelsea if they can take advantage of it.

The English international Mason Mount will likely be key for Chelsea in taking advantage of Fabinho’s absence.

Mount is excellent when it comes to drifting into pockets of space and he will occupy pockets in the channels to allow his midfield to get the ball forward.

Is Sadio Mane the new Roberto Firmino?

For a long time, the Brazilian international Roberto Firmino was the first choice centre forward at Liverpool and for almost as long he was extremely underrated.

Critics would point to a goals per game rate that was (relatively) low for a top-level centre forward.

What those people sometimes missed though was that Firmino was one of the keys to getting the best out of the prolific duo of Sadio Mane and  Mohamed Salah.

Firmino would regularly drop out of the middle towards the midfield and Salah and Mane would attack diagonally into the space that he had left behind.

Now, as Firmino loses minutes in the first team we have increasingly seen Jurgen Klopp turn to the Senegalese international Sadio Mane to fill that role.

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Mane is comfortable coming deep to get the ball and his ability to receive the ball and look to get turned to face goal makes him difficult to defend against.

He still, however, retains the threat to run off the shoulder of the defender and to attack space.

We have already discussed that the right-sided centre back is going to be important for Chelsea in terms of defending against the threat of Liverpool when Reece James is caught out of position.

But now the central defender in the back three is going to have to try to deal with the movement of Sadio Mane.

When the forward drops off we will see whether Jorginho and N’Golo Kante can cover his positioning and block the ball from getting through to him.

The movement of the likes of Salah and whoever starts out of either Diaz or Jota will be key as they will move centrally and try to attack the Chelsea central defenders who move in to cover the movement from Mane in the final third.

How will this play out?

If Chelsea are going to end all talk of a quadruple, they’ll want to get Reece James on the ball as often as possible allowing Tuchel to position the central players in the spaces that will no longer be protected by Fabinho.

The Blues have nothing to lose – if Tuchel’s clear-the-air talks have indeed cleared the air they could be dangerous at Wembley.

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For Liverpool, as ever, it’s how quickly they can impose their game on their opponents and get the ball into their new-look but still as good front three to work their magic.

For more tactical analysis, scouting and stunning data visuals head over to Total Football Analysis.

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