In Tuchel’s system, James is there to provide right-back width, as his touch map shows in a recent Manchester United game. This was also Alexander-Arnold’s role when he joined the Liverpool squad, but his positioning is now more complex. His touch map in the draw with Tottenham shows a player often getting the ball in areas we might expect from an attacking midfielder.
Opponents have their work cut out following Liverpool’s rotation to the right. Alexander-Arnold sometimes overlaps Mohamed Salah, other times he is inside, while Jordan Henderson is on the right wing, while other times Salah holds his width for a Henderson or Alexander-Arnold to run into the area. Klopp will identify Marcos Alonso as a potential weakness.
Will Luis Diaz expose Cesar Azpilicueta?
Cesar Azpilicueta has been one of the best defenders in the county for nearly a decade and one of Chelsea’s best signings in modern times, but he’s had a rough few weeks.
With countless defensive pieces moving around him and his future uncertain, Azpilicueta has been unusually vulnerable. His loose pass led to Arsenal’s third goal at Stamford Bridge last month, before suffering a late penalty and having a fight with a Chelsea fan in the stands. The Spaniard also lost possession in the lead-up to Richarlison’s winning goal for Everton against Chelsea.
Despite the fact that Chelsea have the safety of three centre-backs, Liverpool’s three narrow forwards mean these defenders are still likely to face one-on-one battles. The idea of Azplicueta facing Luis Diaz’s rapid changes of direction will worry Chelsea fans. In the 2020 FA Cup Final, Azpilicueta was targeted by Arsenal with balls over the top to Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang in the left channel and strained his hamstring after 26 minutes.
Tuchel can choose to put Azpilicueta on the side, where he played in the Carabao Cup final, and put James on defense for extra mobility. Trevoh Chalobah is also an option, starting in this position in Leeds on Wednesday.
Dealing with absent midfielders
Both teams have suffered blows from injury this week with Fabinho pulling on his hamstring and Mateo Kovacic rated unlikely to recover from Dan James’ diabolical challenge.
Fabinho is a master at winning second balls in midfield, protecting his two defenders and allowing Klopp to push the numbers forward. Fabinho has won possession in the middle third 131 times this Premier League season, more times than any Liverpool player. He has made more interceptions than any Liverpool midfielder, while Thiago Alcântara is the only midfielder to earn more tackles.