Liverpool vs Chelsea

The first leg of the semi final, where Chelsea opted for a reactive approach to try and avoid defeat before the second leg at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool were able to build well and open spaces in the Chelsea midfield, but struggled to find depth or create a lot of chances from their crossing situations that they were limited to - with Chelsea always having high numbers in the box, alongside a goalkeeper that is great at dealing with crosses.

Liverpool set up in a 3421 formation. Can, Skrtel and Sakho made up the back 3, with progression from the wide defenders [Can and Sakho] during build up to look for passing lanes into midfield. Markovic and Moreno were used on the flanks, dropping deep to make a situational back 5 when defending their own third. Markovic was allowed more freedom of the two, and mode some inside runs on and off the ball during the game, whereas Moreno was more supporting in his attacking - mostly man marked by Willian - and looked to attack from deep rather than move high early. This delay in moving forward helped Liverpool after they found Coutinho receiving the ball in front of Mikel during the game, as he could then turn or find the movements of Henderson, Sterling or Moreno moving into the the space left to the right of Mikel in the Chelsea block - Willian's position high, Ivanovic too deep to press effectively. Henderson and Lucas were the pivots, with Henderson more progressive of the two and Lucas spending more time in dropping to help build play. This allowed them stability in building from the back, but the initiative of the game was given to them by Chelsea as they looked to draw Liverpool onto them to open the space to counter attack. Gerrard and Coutinho were in the halfspaces in front of the midfield and Sterling as striker. These front 3 were the main references in Liverpool's offensive game, where they would look to find them to feet and look for quick and short combinations inside the Chelsea block. This allowed them to frequently open space in central areas, as the movement wide from Gerrard and Coutinho drew the Chelsea 6's out and split the team in the middle. Although Liverpool could build easily and use the space given to them by Chelsea, they couldn't find any depth behind the Chelsea defence. So a lot of domination of play without the creation of various opportunities to score.

Using movement to open up halfspaces by drawing markers out of position.

Gerrard moving outside, with Matic following him, to open halfspace.

Chelsea set up with their usual 4231, although their objective was counter attack in this game, opposed to their usual possession game. Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Luis made up the back 4, Mikel and Matic in the pivot, and Fabregas, Willian and Hazard behind Costa. Chelsea had some coordination problems when they tried to press during the match - sometimes just Costa pressing on his own, wasting energy. Not only was the pressing not collective, but the Chelsea block wasn't compact horizontally or vertically. Willian was mostly man to man with Moreno on the right, Ivanovic often stayed tight to Cahill and Terry as Coutinho was positioned inside, moving deep to receive the ball in halfspaces. Although there was problems with the control of space in midfield, they compensated this with numerical superiority in the centre back areas with both centre backs and Ivanovic, even if one of them was drawn out into midfield or to cover a wide player/fullback they would be left with two centre backs to defend the box. 

Sterling moving deep to receive in space made by the man marking of the Chelsea 6's.

Matic and Mikel would man mark Gerrard and Coutinho situationally, but followed them too wide at times which left open spaces in the middle. Due to the splitting movements of Gerrard and Coutinho - with Matic and Mikel following them - Sterling often had a lot of space to drop and receive the ball in central areas with space and time to turn or layoff the ball to teammates, as the Chelsea centre backs would only man mark him situationally if he was standing in their small defensive zones. The Liverpool goal come from a situation like this, and happened frequently throughout the match, as Chelsea looked to use their numerical superiority in the box to delay Sterling, when turning after receiving in space, to control the depth behind them and force Liverpool to crossing situations. At left back Luis would situationally move out to press Markovic as he moved forward on the right, although maybe Azpilicueta’s central midfield pressing could potentially of been used to help control the central areas more efficiently in some situations. Hazard had mostly free role in defending in deep areas, as he would only be involved in some pressing situations with Markovic and Can. He would sometimes move inside which would mean Fabregas or Costa moving to the left to defend.

Chelsea defending their box with Ivanovic, Cahill and Terry all in the middle. Willian deep, at right back, following Moreno.

In the second half Chelsea were even more passive than in the first, with Costa, Hazard and Fabregas mostly passengers in defensive situations. This allowed Liverpool find their front 3 easily and continue to open up spaces in midfield. The Lallana change for Gerrard allowed them to hold the ball better in higher areas, but still couldn't create good chances. Chelsea later moved to a permanent back 5 with the introduction of Azpilicueta for Willian to see the game out, by having a player in a deeper starting position that can move out at press the space next to Mikel that was being opened by Coutinho movements to receive the ball.


A result that suites Chelsea more than Liverpool, with the second leg at Stamford Bridge. If it wasn't for the great turn, bad defending from Matic, and finish from Sterling it would of been the perfect result for an unimpressive Chelsea. At home in the second leg they will more than likely be aggressive and coordinated in their pressing, with a proactive approach likely to try and win the game.It will be interesting to see how Liverpool approach the second leg against a different Chelsea, and if they can make use of the depth which could potentially be available with Chelsea playing in a higher block.