Saturday sees us take on neighbours Liverpool in what is always a well contested fixture. This short preview will take a look at the red’s strengths and weaknesses and investigate what our own strategy will be on derby day…..
Improvement down the flanks
Last season Liverpool’s tactical deficiency was a lack of width – something of a hangover from the Benitez regime . They have clearly targeted the flanks in their recruitment policy since the US Takeover; Enrique provides quality down the left while Downing is able to play on either wing – as his man of the match display last season at Goodison playing on the right showed – hopefully ‘King’ Kenny hasn’t seen the dvd of this game.
Suarez is clearly the principal attacking hub. He likes to play from centre to the left and his partnership with the roaming Jose Enrique needs to be monitored. A quick glance at Enrique’s passing chalkboard (left) from last weeks win at Wolves shows he is often the principal supply for number 7 Suarez – 35% of his passes go to the Uruguayan with one of them being a direct assist on the goal
Liverpool ‘s new buy Charlie Adam has already bagged a couple of assists and been a key-man so far this campaign. However, as was shown at Goodison last season, pressuring Adam in possession can pay dividends.
In the above screenshot Fellaini presses him which leads to a misplaced ball from Adam and our opening goal. Adam can certainly be caught on the ball – most recently this happened at Spurs when his passing completion slumped to almost Stoke levels at 54% – some 22% below his average. His frustration boiled over with the sending off later on in this game which isn’t an isolated incident – he averages more fouls per game (2.7) than any other Liverpool player so far this campaign
Further back, Carragher’s decline has continued this season with error ridden displays now commonplace . His display in this fixture last season was laughable and this weakness will need to be exploited if we are to get a result. ‘Carra’ can still compete aerially and will relish a physical battle if Cahill is selected or any striker who comes deep – but if you can run at him things will happen. He is likely to start on the right of the centre back partnership so if Drenthe starts wide left we could certainly get an advantage if he can run into the veteran’s channel.
I would expect a completely different display to last weeks defeat at Eastlands. Our personnel and style means we are more proactive at winning the ball than Liverpool through pressing high up the pitch. In theory this should stand us in good stead for the derby – typically a fixture low in quality and high in energy and tempo. We are setup well to gain possession in more advanced positions. – shown by the fact we have made more interceptions per game than any other side in the division.
I’d expect Drenthe to come into contention for this one – we’ve already seen the good and bad from him in his cameo displays from the bench – a great goal against Wigan and then the misplaced pass which led to City’s second. This high tempo fixture should suit his style and with our lack of options in forward areas his quality could be vital.
This should be a well contested tussle and for me the outcome will be decided on who uses the width better. if Downing is selected on the right he will get space to operate in with Baines pushing on as he always does. With Downing on the right though its likely Adam will play left but tucked in – this will engineer decent 2 on 1 offensive scenarios for the Blues down our right side. I’m going for us to win 2-1.