ZonalMarking.net's Michael Cox uses FourFourTwo's StatsZone app to preview Saturday's FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Liverpool...
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish’s big decision ahead of Saturday's match against Chelsea at Wembley will be whether he starts Andy Carroll upfront, or uses Luis Suarez as his main striker. The Uruguayan forward is in great form following his hat-trick against Norwich last week, and enjoyed being able to roam the width of the pitch as the primary striker.
Suarez tends to play in the right-centre channel, where he gets the ball into feet and takes on opponents. Against Norwich, seven of his eight dribbles were on that side of the pitch, as were four of his five shots. He also played very well in the FA Cup semi-final by continually getting in behind Leighton Baines and taking on Sylvain Distin in that zone.
His opponent in that position would be John Terry, who dealt well with Suarez in their previous meeting at Stamford Bridge, despite the fact Andre Villas-Boas was ordering Chelsea to play with a high defensive line at that point. That meant Suarez’s main threat was his pace – now, with Chelsea playing deeper, Suarez will pick up the ball between the lines and run at Terry.
Carroll, of course, brings a more direct style to Liverpool’s passing. As the midweek game against Fulham showed, Liverpool hit a lot of long diagonal balls from the right-sided centre-back position towards Carroll, taking advantage of his aerial power, but making Liverpool’s attacks predictable.
Carroll had a difficult time in front of goal – from seven attempts, he got just one on target. Liverpool’s problem this season has been dominating games but not taking their chances, and Dalglish will have to question whether it’s worth bringing in Carroll’s aerial presence if he’s not offering a significant goal threat.
Roberto Di Matteo has been rotating his side in recent weeks, but has tried to keep his centre-back pairing together before big games, so the fact John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic started in the midweek defeat to Newcastle suggests they’re likely to start at Wembley this weekend.
There’s an interesting pattern to the way Chelsea pass the ball out of the defence – Terry always plays significantly more passes than Ivanovic, and is more likely to play incisive forward balls into attackers to the left of the pitch.
Ivanovic, however, is more ponderous on the ball, and plays either sideways passes to Terry, easy balls out to the full-back, or long, high diagonal balls. Liverpool would do well to focus on blocking potential forward passes for Terry – Ivanovic’s passing is unlikely to hurt them, unless he’s hitting long balls for Drogba.
But despite Drogba’s reputation as a cup final specialist, could Fernando Torres get a start against his former club? His late goal at Barcelona has improved his confidence, and his hat-trick last weekend against QPR showed he is back to something approaching his best. He’d relish the opportunity to play well against Liverpool on such a big stage this weekend.
Torres tends to pick up a lot of long balls towards the left of the pitch, yet becomes more involved in short passing over to the right. Equally interesting were the positions he scored from last Sunday – all three goals were hit from wide positions, either side of the six-yard box. If he starts, Torres will look to get into the positions between centre-back and full-back and receive balls through the defence – a very different threat from Drogba.
Stats Zone is a free-download app from FourFourTwo powered by stats from Opta, updated LIVE during the game, covering Champions League and Premier
Read more about Stats ZoneDownload Premier League & Champions League Stats Zone
LATEST FOOTBALL NEWS
Nigeria claim Africa Cup of Nations crown
Mali sink Ghana in Nations Cup play-off
CAF clear Pitroipa to play in Nations Cup final
Renard warned over Nelspruit pitch comments
Hayatou defends referees but admits mistakes
He's here, he's there, he's...
The cost of Premier League away travel
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010