Philippe Coutinho has been a rare bright spot in an ultimately disappointing season for the Reds, writes Alex Keble...
Jose Mourinho's conservative tactical approach, coupled with Liverpool's creative dry spell, is likely to make for a somewhat drab encounter on Sunday (not to mention the fact Chelsea have already won the league).
However, if there's one player who could light up this relatively new rivalry it's Philippe Coutinho – up against a defensively deficient Cesc Fabregas.
Among the many spluttering components of Brendan Rodgers' 3-4-3 (a formation that now looks jaded without Daniel Sturridge), his decision to move Coutinho into a central midfield role has proved effective.
The dynamism of Liverpool's 4-3-3 had relied upon a see-saw dropping off of the front three – something that neither Mario Balotelli nor Rickie Lambert are capable of doing.
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Coutinho receives the ball in a less crowded area, allowing him to hit the final third at speed. In his last three games he has completed 12 dribbles, despite his team scoring twice.
The first line of defence against these mazy runs will be Fabregas, whose positional indiscipline has frequently left Nemanja Matic overworked and Chelsea exposed (0.7 interceptions per match).
With Ramires injured, Mourinho may wish to field Kurt Zouma alongside Matic to counter this issue, but the speed with which Coutinho moves could be a problem for the big centre-back.
Chelsea are firm favourites to keep Liverpool at bay and Mourinho will, of course, have a plan for dealing with the Reds' Brazilian schemer. However, with fellow Selecao member Ramires ruled out and Zouma too inflexible as a midfielder against Liverpool's pace, this zone could be the decisive battleground.