Every match Liverpool play at the moment is the biggest league encounter in over twenty years, and this is no exception. A home win would ensure that Chelsea can not win the league this season, and Liverpool would be just four points away from the ultimate glory.
Having looked at shots on target ahead of the Manchester City game, I thought I’d return to my chance quality work to preview this one.
I also recently wrote about the top three teams’ form with big chances, so let’s start with a quick look at the (venue dependent) up-to-date figures.
On form, it certainly appears that Liverpool are more likely to fashion top quality opportunities than the visitors, though Chelsea’s ability to prevent their opponents from doing so, even away from home, is obviously a hugely relevant factor ahead of this match.
As for where on the pitch the two teams have created and allowed chances, here’s a reminder of how I divide up the pitch.
Here are the attacking figures for the two teams.
The figures are pretty similar across the board here, albeit the Blues have a slight edge on the Reds. Liverpool have created more chances than Chelsea in the wide box, as befits the team who play the most through balls per game, and in the final third zone, as you would expect from the league’s most effective counter attacking team; Liverpool have nine such goals, when no other team has more than four.
Let’s have a look at how many assists the teams have got this season, compared to what would be expected if they converted chances in line with the Premier League average.
Liverpool definitely have a massive edge here, having converted twenty-one goals above the league average expectancy, which compares favourably to Chelsea’s below par tally. Perhaps Mourinho was right when he said he didn’t have any decent strikers? The figures certainly look that way, and we can see that Brendan Rodgers’ team have not been held back this season by having fewer chances than their visitors this weekend.
How about chances conceded at the back end of the pitch?
As the big chance stats at the start of the piece illustrated, Chelsea have performed better defensively overall, and that won’t surprise anyone who has seen both teams play this season. That said, Kopites can certainly take heart in the fact that their west-London rivals have allowed more open play chances in the centre of the box (which is by far and away the most profitable zone for attacking teams) than the Reds have.
I’ll finish with a look at Liverpool’s home figures compared to Chelsea’s away numbers, to perhaps give a better indication of how the teams might perform on Sunday.
When I wrote a similar preview for the Arsenal match at Anfield, I suggested that we shouldn’t read too much into the fact that the figures were heavily weighted in Liverpool’s favour, yet the Reds ran out comfortable 5-1 winners in the end.
Whatever team Chelsea actually field, the chances are that it will still have cost more to assemble than the home team has, and even if their main focus is the Champions League, Mourinho is far too canny to allow his team to get beaten as easily as the Gunners were at the start of Liverpool’s current eleven game winning run.
For instance, I suspect they will defend so deeply that they may almost be in Stanley Park at times when the Reds attack the Anfield Road end, and so Liverpool’s impressive figure for creativity in the Final Third zone is likely to be negated by a lack of space to play in.
But one thing is for sure, if Liverpool fly out of the traps as they so often have in recent times, I’m confident they will get a point at the very least, which will keep the title dream in their own hands.