PMB: Liverpool v Chelsea - history and tactics

In the second part of today’s Pre-Match Briefing, club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton recall the past and look to the immediate future...                   


Chelsea and Liverpool meet for the 50th time in the Premier League. Both teams have won 19 times and there have been 11 draws. The Blues will aim to avoid a double league defeat against the Reds for the first time since 2011/12.

The west Londoners’ first ever trip to Anfield, on Christmas Day 1907, brought tidings of great joy. ‘The Pensioners were in great form at Anfield yesterday,’ reported the Yorkshire Post. ‘On the other hand Liverpool, when they got near [goalkeeper Jack] Whitley, failed. [George] Hilsdon scored for Chelsea in ten minutes, and [Jimmy] Windridge put them further ahead. Shortly after, owing to Whitley coming out, Liverpool reduced the lead.

‘Resuming, Liverpool looked like improving but then fell away, and Chelsea, playing a brilliant game, scored two more goals. George Henderson put on a third and Hilsdon a fourth. The forwards played a grand game, Rouse and Hilsdon being the most prominent. Liverpool were outplayed at all points.’

The fixture has often carried significance ever since, and not just in recent times. In 1949, again at Christmas but on the 27th, the Pensioners visited the home of the then league leaders.

With vocal pictures of the first half painted by commentators from the BBC Light Programme (squeezed in between ‘Waltz Time’ and ‘Song Of Sorrento’), Chelsea led 1-0 through Roy Bentley.

After the break, Liverpool rallied to grab a 2-2 draw – a Joe Fagan brace answered by Hugh Billington for the visitors – but were most fortunate that a good goal by Jimmy Bowie was scrubbed out. Otherwise Chelsea fans would still be able to boast of victory in front of what remains the biggest league crowd ever at Anfield: 58,757.

On all but one occasion Chelsea have won the league, the team’s success has included a win at Liverpool. The anomaly is 1954/55, when Liverpool were a Division Two club.

On New Year’s Day 2005 it took a brilliant 80th-minute strike by substitute Joe Cole, on the field for just a few minutes. The following season Steven Gerrard equalised Frank Lampard’s early spot-kick, but Damien Duff, Cole again and Geremi completed an emphatic 4-1 triumph.

In 2009/10 goals from Didier Drogba and Lampard either side of half-time settled the outcome, and two seasons ago Emre Can’s deflected early goal was cancelled out by Gary Cahill, before Diego Costa mopped a loose clearance for the win.

You may enjoy the highlights of that game here.

Highlights: Liverpool (A) PREM 14/15

Chelsea are unbeaten in our past four Premier League meetings at Anfield since our last defeat there in May 2012. We have won six and drawn three of our past 13 league games at Anfield. The previous 60 league matches had served up just five Blues wins.

After a 3-2 win in 1935, the west Londoners endured 56 years of leaving Anfield without maximum points. The game in February 1992 finally ended that thanks to Vinnie Jones’s 25-yard opener and Dennis Wise’s winner after Ronnie Rosenthal equalised for Liverpool.


The 6-2 FA Cup victory over Burnley on 31 January 1978 was Chelsea’s third-best ever in the competition proper at the time, after the 9-1 whipping at Worksop in 1908 and 7-2 crushing of Accrington Stanley in 1927. We have since won 6-1 (twice) and 7-0 against Ipswich.


Our last 10 away league meetings at Liverpool


The reverse fixture this season

16 September 2016 Premier League

Chelsea………..……..1       Liverpool………..….2

Diego Costa 61               Lovren 17

                                    Henderson 36

            Att: 41,514


Chelsea v Liverpool in all competitions

Games played   175

Chelsea wins      61

Draws   38

Liverpool wins   76


Head to head in the League at Anfield

Games played   73

Chelsea wins      11

Draws   16

Liverpool wins   46


Biggest league win at Anfield for each team

Liverpool 6-0 Chelsea - 20/04/1935

Liverpool 1-4 Chelsea - 25/12/1907 & 02/10/2005



Antonio Conte is under no illusions about how potentially difficult this match may be, despite the fact Chelsea, with an eight-point advantage at the top of the Premier League, have not foundered at Anfield since May 2012.

All squad members not involved in the 4-0 FA Cup beating of Brentford were put through their paces on the Stamford Bridge pitch after its conclusion. It was a reminder that a mere two full days were available in which to prepare for tonight’s vital fixture. 

TRAINING AT STAMFORD BRIDGE: Post match warm down after FA Cup victory v Brentford


The Italian head coach made nine changes for the Bees clash, and is certain to reinstate most if not all of the team that saw off Hull City the previous weekend. However, he will be reassured that plenty of those involved on Saturday acquitted themselves well enough to be trusted should they be called upon in the remainder of the campaign.

This is one of those nights when the opening goal could help the scorers, and late goals could be important. The Blues have netted first in almost three-quarters of league games this season and, home or away, Conte’s Blues have only conceded three times in the last 30 minutes of matches. It is a measure of the Italian’s capacity to close out a game that his team are yet to conceded in the league after him making a substitution.

Against a much-changed Liverpool side, victorious Wolves boss Paul Lambert was mindful of the hosts’ well-known aim to harass and win the ball as close to the opponents’ goal as possible.

As a result he asked his team, who are 18th in the Championship, to play the ball long, over the top of the Reds’ attack and midfield, to instigate counter attacks and exploit the pace of his front men.

The tactic worked inside a minute. The Blues have already shown this season that they can pressure teams into conceding like a python or strike like a cobra – only Manchester City have netted more league goals this season on the counter.

Another factor is that Jurgen Klopp’s side have become slow starters, allowing opponents to gain confidence while theirs saps away during this poor run of form.

Teams sit deep, frustrate, then hit them on the break. The Reds’ forward line has missed the zip and dynamism of early season Sadio Mane, who has been in Gabon with his Senegal team-mates.

The forward was responsible for the missed shoot-out penalty – after 120 minutes of football – that ended the favourites’ Africa Cup of Nations hopes, and he appeared inconsolable at the end. The late flight home yesterday, physical and emotional intensity of the tournament, and lack of preparation time all may make him a risky participant.

Without Mane, teams defending in numbers know the narrow Reds forward line does not generally get behind or outflank them and as a result tend to drift back in search the ball. 

Klopp’s preferred midfield over a turbulent month has appeared to include Emre Can, skipper Jordan Henderson and ex-Newcastle man Georginio Wijnaldum, with Adam Lallana pushed further forward than previously. Fans have complained that it lacks creativity, playing the ball around without incisiveness. 

It is at the back that critics identify the Reds’ critical weakness. As willing as converted right-winger James Milner is at left-back, a succession of opponents has targeted him with high balls. Many Reds fans feel Nathaniel Clyne has dipped from the heights he reached at Southampton too, though the injured full-back is likely to make way for 18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold this evening. 

There may be a recall for Joel Matip (pictured), though the Cameroonian centre-back has barely featured since his ankle problem in December, playing just one minute against the Swans and looking uncertain over 90 minutes of the semi-final defeat by Southampton.

Throughout January the Merseysiders’ rearguard has appeared to have a shortage of defensive bodies when opponents counter-attack swiftly, or fire in a cross. Klopp coaches zonal marking at set-plays, but it is more the hesitancy to win the second ball in their goal area that is proving costly.

Upfront, the skilful Philipp Coutinho and Roberto Firmino tend to play quite narrowly behind solitary striker Daniel Sturridge. The former Chelsea man can be a match-winner in the box but his all-round contribution does not always harmonise with Klopp’s holistic approach. He has been in and out of the team in a system where attackers are expected to force errors with pressing and mobility.

Firmino’s form has been a shining light for the German this season though it dropped off in Coutinho’s absence, during which he was asked to play wide and run more.

Attacking set-plays have been a profitable goals source for the Reds (10 of them, including a whopping six penalties); only West Brom and West Ham have had more success with that route to goal.


Squad news

Chelsea have no injuries.

Sadio Mane should have rejoined the Liverpool squad following Senegal’s defeat in the Africa Cup of Nations. Klopp will have regular starter Adam Lallana available but Nathaniel Clyne has a rib injury.

Adam Bogdan, Danny Ings and Ovie Ejaria are ruled out long-term.