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Liverpool vs Chelsea: Liverpool’s midfield duo obvious solution for breaking Chelsea

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Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara

In retrospect, this will become the most important game of the season for Liverpool, Their 2-2 draw with Everton in October shaped the campaign as Virgil van Dijk’s 11th-minute injury was the first threat to Anfield’s previously impenetrable defense.

 

Jurgen Klopp has spent the subsequent months rearranging his squad in search of stability and brilliance. Eight different central defenders have started at least one game, resulting in 18 unique pairings.

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And that is behind a central midfield that has had 11 individual starters, from Klopp’s “most consistent” Georginio Wijnaldum to the young sensation Leighton Clarkson.

 

It is that constant change that has starved Liverpool of perhaps their most potent midfield options. Thiago and Fabinho have shared a pitch together in central midfield for only 90 minutes so far: that Everton stalemate in which the former was named man of the match.

 

Thiago had the most touches (99), dribbles (4) and interceptions (2) of any player. His pass accuracy (92.4%) was the highest of those that featured for half an hour or more. A no-look pre-assist for the Jordan Henderson stoppage-time winner that would eventually be disallowed was a little too awkward.

 

It remains his best Liverpool performance yet, improved by no small part by Fabinho’s role as a midfield maestro with a match-leading six tackles, he has not played in midfield since. The opportunity has simply not been there.

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Liverpool vs Chelsea

Fabunho and Thiago have only managed to play together in the midfield once this season so far. ( Photo by Getty Images)

 

But Klopp realises that the benefit of bringing in a fit Fabinho to his more natural role now outweighs the risk of moving him away from a defence with more options.

 

“If we can find a way to bring Fab back in midfield, in some games that will be quite helpful,” klop said in midweek. “It’s good, it gives us options in different moments.”

 

The visit of Chelsea Today could be the best moment to explore them. Liverpool did what was best against Sheffield United but it will require much more than a victory by fine margins against the bottom club to be in top 4.

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Facing a side unbeaten in nine games since their new manager’s appointment will either sharpen Liverpool’s focus or re-establish those home discomforts that has seen them go without a win at Anfield since December 16.

 

Thomas Tuchel discovered a dynamic midfield alliance of his own against Manchester United. Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante were an effective collaboration yet Thiago and Fabinho could be enough to rival them and any other partnership the league has to offer.

 

They can bring the balance between creativity and assurance that has been so lacking in the squad.
That will be needed against Chelsea, who have averaged 67.3% possession under Tuchel.

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