Benítez: Liverpool have the balance to win, even without Fabinho

Benítez: Liverpool have the balance to win, even without Fabinho
FA Cup final

Former Liverpool and Chelsea manager Rafael Benítez analyses three key tactical areas that may define the FA Cup final.

Benítez told Times that “Chelsea have a lot of offensive options and Romelu Lukaku has started the past two league games, scoring three goals. 

“However, Liverpool have centre backs who are big, strong and good in the air and because of those characteristics, I think that facing someone like Kai Havertz will cause them more of a problem than a target man. Havertz brings more mobility, with the aim of dragging opponents out of position, and he would be supported by two players behind.


“Lukaku was a big success at Inter Milan because Antonio Conte played to his strengths, but Chelsea have more options up front. In Chelsea’s past two matches against Liverpool, Tuchel has gone with Havertz, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount. Timo Werner is another alternative and my feeling is that it could be a similar plan.”


Benitez said it will be 3-4-3 versus 4-3-3

“The key to the 3-4-3 system Chelsea play is the wing backs. Marcos Alonso and Reece James have to stay wide and receive the ball when their team are in possession.


“The question for Liverpool is: who will press the wing back when they have the ball? If we analyse Chelsea’s left flank versus Liverpool’s right side, then either Mohamed Salah presses Alonso or it is Trent Alexander-Arnold.


“If it is the full back then there is space behind him. Imagine that you play, for example, Werner or Pulisic, then he will run into that area, which means the centre back has to cover across. A centre back versus a winger in the wide areas of the pitch can always be a problem.


“Liverpool play 4-3-3, so looking at their right side again, how do Chelsea stop them? Chelsea’s three strikers will go against the centre backs and the Liverpool midfielder who drops off to allow Jürgen Klopp’s full backs to go really high.


“This season we have also seen Alexander-Arnold coming inside to receive the ball and, in that case, Alonso will go to press him. That leaves Salah versus Antonio Rüdiger in a one-v-one and anything can happen. I think that is a good scenario for “Liverpool, even on the other side, where Sadio Mané and Luis Díaz can also be one-v-one against a defender. They have the ability to pass them and create superiority in the box. We saw a lot of this match-up in the Carabao Cup final in February, when Rüdiger did well against Salah. Can he be so successful again?


“In the build-up play, these are the key challenges both sides face but, we can’t forget, both teams are good on the counterattack. This will be another vital feature of the game.”



Though Fabinho is an important player for Liverpool but according to the two clubs former manager.

“There is no doubt that Fabinho is an important player for Liverpool, someone who is key to their performance and the balance of the team. His absence because of injury will be a blow, but at this level Liverpool have the options to cope. Jordan Henderson has experience of the No 6 role and brings energy and quality, while Thiago Alcântara has only played 16 minutes in the three matches against Chelsea this season. He will offer a different dimension in terms of his passing. The characteristics of the player at the base of the midfield will change without Fabinho, maybe there will be a little less physicality, but Liverpool can manage with that.

“Liverpool will not change how they play. The full backs will still play high and whether it is Henderson or Thiago, Klopp will have someone there to protect the centre backs and be the link when his side have the ball. That will also give them balance when they don’t, and balance is the key for winning at any level.”