How Liverpool Can Beat Chelsea

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Liverpool face a supremely difficult test tomorrow, but if they can win they can take a massive step forward toward securing the title. Yeah, that's still weird to say.

Facing down against Jose Mourinho with the title on the line is never an easy task. For all of the criticisms he faces for his tactical style, Mourinho's squads are very organized and tend to be at their best in the biggest matches. Even if Mourinho does go with a weakened side as is believed (and should be taken with a massive heap of salt), Brendan Rodgers has a monumentally tough job ahead.

Can it be done? You bet your sweet scarf it can.

Liverpool come in to this match with two massive advantages. First, they're at home, and Anfield has returned to it's fortress-like glory this season, where no visitors are safe. Second, after last week's results (thanks, Sunderland!), Liverpool can afford a draw, meaning they don't have to go with all-out aggression as they did against Manchester City two weeks ago.

That second point could be the most important tomorrow. We know from experience that Liverpool can sit back and absorb pressure well, and are ruthlessly effective on the counter thanks to Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez. If Daniel Sturridge is healthy enough to star, that would make the counter even more effective.

While normally you might think that Chelsea would be able to withstand the counter well, there's several reasons to think that they'll be vulnerable to it tomorrow. First and foremost, they've had issues with it all season long; they get too eager going forward against organized defenses and has frequently gotten torn to shreds on the transition, especially when Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel have been involved in midfield as they're expected to be tomorrow.

Also, with rotation at the back expected and John Terry out injured, Chelsea will be playing with a non-standard defense that probably hasn't had much time playing together, whether in matches or in practice. With the back line vulnerable, especially with the aging legs of Ashley Cole expected to start, Liverpool's speed and skill in transition could be just what the doctor ordered to knock the Blues out of the title fight and put one hand on the trophy.

Even with this in mind, it's going to be a long match for Liverpool. Chelsea's "B" unit is nothing to shake a stick at; the likes of Andre Schurrle, Demba Ba, Frank Lampard, and Nemanja Matic are a dangerous group of players and cannot be underestimated. Schurrle and Lampard in particular will need to be dealt with with great care by Liverpool's defense and midfield, lest they get free and wreak havoc.

The key will be staying diligent in zone responsibilities. Steven Gerrard and whichever of Joe Allen or Lucas Leiva start will have their hands full shielding the back line and keeping Chelsea to find space to exploit. Any mistakes made will almost certainly be punished with lethal precision; Liverpool should probably consider themselves lucky that Eden Hazard is unlikely to play, because he's a much better version of the type of player Liverpool have struggled with all season.

Tomorrow's going to be a long, stressful day. Liverpool can definitely win, but it will take a performance of the best quality and absolute precision focus. We know the Reds can win under these circumstances; let's hope they can do it one more time. Three matches left. Seven points needed. We go again.

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