This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Liverpool face their second difficult fixture away from home this week when they visit Stamford Bridge, and they will need their superstar front three to be at their very best.
There are a few players in fine form currently, but without Roberto Firmino for most of the first half against Newcastle the Reds looked disjointed in attack and lacked creativity in the final third.
Sadio Mane had produced a moment of magic to equalise, but as soon as the Brazilian came on he lifted his team and the Magpies soon unravelled, with his trickery in the second half setting up two chances for Mo Salah to score, one of which he took.
His importance in that match was due to Newcastle’s game plan to sit deep, and since Chelsea have been poor defensively this season with 11 goals conceded in five games, Firmino could have even more joy this weekend.
He is the only one of the front three who is better suited to coming short for the ball, and by that virtue he is able to drag defenders out of position and allow his teammates to run in behind – Liverpool’s second and third goals last weekend being a prime example of that.
That could prove very effective against the inexperienced Fikayo Tomori. Chelsea were criticised for defensive displays against Manchester United and Sheffield United, as they were all over the place if truth be told, and a clever player like Firmino could take advantage of that.
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For that reason, and because of his display against Newcastle, Frank Lampard will be keen to have him closely marked, and that should open up space for Liverpool’s other attackers to threaten Chelsea’s backline. Firmino comes out, the Blues follow him, Mane and Salah run riot in behind – simple.
Alternatively, Firmino’s two league goals have come in Liverpool’s away matches against Southampton and Burnley, and both were the result of the opposition granting him too much space. It really feels like there is no way to cope with the Brazilian at the moment – go with him and leave yourself exposed to his creativity, back off and he’ll do it himself.
Chelsea could well be his latest victim.