This was a surprisingly poor game between two of the biggest teams in the Premier League. There were few tactical battles of note and both goals – John Terry and Luis Suarez the scorers – came via set pieces. The only real point of interest was Brendan Rodgers’ decision to move to a back three and his subsequent change back to the favoured formation midway through the second half.
Roberto Di Matteo used the 4-2-3-1 formation, as he has done throughout the season. John Terry returned to the centre of defence and Fernando Torres lined up against his former club
Brendan Rodgers moved to a 3-5-2 formation, with Jamie Carragher coming into the team with Martin Skrtel missing out with illness. Glen Johnson also returned to the line-up after a spell on the sidelines with injury.
Liverpool’s 3-5-2 formation did two things to the character of the match. Firstly, the use of wing-backs (Johnson and Enrique) ensured Chelsea’s wide players were pinned back to help the fullbacks defend. It also ensured Liverpool maintained possession at the back, but this also hindered Liverpool’s attacking play as they had less numbers forward. As a result, Joe Allen was caught out on occasions when looking for a forward pass.
Much of the first half, and the match for that matter, was a cagey affair. Chelsea had a few chances which came after Liverpool turned over possession and they got the break through via a corner after 20 minutes.
John Terry was able to get free from Daniel Agger much too easily and powered a header into the back of the net.
The Chelsea wide players continually found themselves dropping deep to help out when defending against the wing-backs of Liverpool. In my previous analysis of Chelsea vs. Manchester City, alongside their performances against Wigan and Juventus, it was clear they had struggled with dealing with these players.
This option, to have Hazard and Mata track back, added to the relatively dull affair.
A knee injury to John Terry late in the half was the only thing of note to end the half.
A similar tone continued for the early stages of the second half until Brendan Rodgers made his first substitution on 60 minutes. Suso came on in place of Nuri Sahin and Liverpool moved to a 4-2-3-1.
Liverpool improved going forward, but this also allowed Hazard and Mata to push higher up the pitch. The game opened up slightly, but the best chances still came from set-pieces or mistakes in possession.
Liverpool equalised when Luis Suarez headed home Jamie Carragher’s flick on.
Good chances also fell to Fernando Torres (well saved by Brad Jones), Suarez (Cech coming off his line to clear the danger) and a late shot from Jose Enrique (Cech saved at his near post).
The match ended 1-1 which was a fair result in the end.
Both goals came set pieces and there were little chances throughout (only 3 clear cut chances all match). Liverpool, with their 3-5-2 formation was able to push back the Chelsea wide players and dominate possession (56.8%) but most of this possession came from deep, with Liverpool struggling when going forward.
The switch of formation from Liverpool opened up the game but it was still a cagey affair lacking in any real quality normally associated with matches involving these sides.