PreviewPosted by Leif Larsson Wed, April 08, 2015 18:08:36
Is it gonna be a season to forget or one to remember? A part of the answer, or the whole, comes tonight when Liverpool take on Blackburn in a FA Cup quarterfinal replay at Ewood Park. Anything but a win will deem this campaign as a let-down. If we win then we still have a chance of grabbing a trophy.
In the last two league games the Reds have lost to top four rivals Manchester United and Arsenal and subsequently given up on Champions League positions. Now it´s only FA Cup glory to fight for. First hurdle in the quest for this silverware is Championship side Blackburn this evening. Even if Rovers at the moment are in 10th place in the second tier they won´t be a pushover. As Premier League sides Stoke and Swansea have experienced this season going down 4-1 and 3-1 at Ewood Park in the FA Cup. Liverpool also felt their strength, especially defensively, when Blackburn managed to get a 0-0 draw at Anfield a few weeks back earning themselves a replay at home.
Now Liverpool must recapture the form which resulted in a 13 match unbeaten streak in the league before the two latest defeats brought us back to earth. Recently we have been slow and unimaginative going forward and sloppy in defence. This must be wiped out tonight and replaced with crisp passing and creativity when attacking, determination in defence and pure hard work. And above all, we can´t start slowly once again. That is a formula for failure. Liverpool must take charge from the off and put Blackburn under pressure. If we let them take control and maybe get a goal then we have to chase the game and that is something we haven´t been good at in a long time. The first goal must be a red one and then we can build on that and hopefully make sure we progress.
If Liverpool get knocked out then this season must be described as, well, a fiasco. No silverware and a league position outside the Champions League places. Of course, we can still reach top four, theoretically that is, but in real life that is not going to happen. Even if we win all remaining seven games then Manchester City, Man Utd or Arsenal must drop eight, nine or ten points and that is not even close to plausible.
So we must go all in tonight and keep hopes of a FA Cup final alive. This is the team I would pick for the job (in a 4-3-3 formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Glen Johnson. CB: Dejan Lovren. CB: Mamadou Sakho. LB: Alberto Moreno. DM: Lucas Leiva. RM: Jordan Henderson. LM: Joe Allen. RF: Raheem Sterling. CF: Daniel Sturridge. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
We need to revert to a back four in this match because two of the key figures, Martin Skrtel and Emre Can, in the successful back three is out due to suspensions. We have not adequate replacements for a back three to function so we need four defenders. Hopefully Sturridge is fit and can start otherwise Lazar Markovic has to come in and Sterling shifted to the centre of attack. Unfortunately neither Sten Gerrard nor Adam Lallana can participate, suspension and injury preventing them. But any Red team selected should win against the Championship side.
Time for the rallying cry: We Go Again.
PreviewPosted by Leif Larsson Wed, April 01, 2015 10:30:18
The completely unnecessary home defeat to Manchester United in the last league game has put Liverpool in a precarious position. Now we must beat Arsenal away to have a chance of reaching Champions League, CL, positions. And it will be tough to put it mildly, we hardly ever win in at Emirates, and Highbury before, so we probably need the best performance of the season to pull off the vital victory on Saturday.
With eight league matches to go Liverpool is in 5th place five points behind Manchester United and six behind Arsenal. If we lose to Arsenal and United beat Aston Villa at home then the margin will be eight and nine points to our rivals for top four and in reality goodbye to CL. Even a draw versus Arsenal isn´t good enough. To close a six point gap in seven games is also almost impossible.
Plain and simple, the Reds must down Arsenal. But to do that we must really upset the statistical odds. In eleven league and cup games at Emirates, since 2006/07, Liverpool has won just once. The preceding statistics at Highbury tells a similar pitiful story. The last six meetings at Highbury ended in four home wins and two draws. So we have to better a record that reads nine home wins, seven draws and just one away victory to extend our hopes of Champions League participation next season.
To add insult to injury we have a lot of players out for this crucial fixture. Martin Skrtel and Steven Gerrard are suspended, Daniel Sturridge is injured and there are doubts for a couple of other players. Arsenal, on the other hand, welcomes back some previously injured players. As if a clash at Emirates wasn´t difficult enough we must manage without vital players all over the pitch.
And we have to deal with a home team in fine form. Arsenal has clocked up six straight wins and eleven in the last 13 league games. Liverpool had an even more impressive streak, 13 matches without defeat, before the loss to Man United. Now it´s time to start a new winning sequence.
We can take heart from our display at home versus Arsenal which started the 13 match unbeaten run. It ended 2-2 but Liverpool was all over the visitors having 64 percent of the possession and winning the goal chance statistic 27-7. This time I would be satisfied with the opposite figures as long as we travel home with three points in the bag.
This is the line-up I would choose for this make or break game (in a 3-4-3 formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Emre Can. CB: Mamadou Sakho. LB: Dejan Lovren. RWB: Glen Johnson. CM: Jordan Henderson. CM: Joe Allen. LWB: Alberto Moreno. RF: Adam Lallana. CF: Raheem Sterling. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
Without Skrtel it´ll be difficult to form a reliable defence. Perhaps we should go back to 4-4-2 in this game, putting Johnson at right back, Can and Sakho in the centre and Moreno at left back and leave out the shaky Lovren. Arsenal will in all likelihod dominate possession and we have to defend quite a lot. The defence must have a perfect match and that includes goalkeeper Mignolet. And when chances present themselves we must be effective and convert, as it´s not going to be many.
I have described a lot of games this season as must win ones in order to cling on to CL hopes. In reality they have proved not to be all that crucial. But this one is so keep all fingers crossed as:
We Go Again.
PreviewPosted by Leif Larsson Sun, March 22, 2015 10:37:55
After every Liverpool win in recent times the feeling of relief comes over you. For ten seconds, that is, then anxiety for the next crucial match creeps in. And today it´s another big ´un when arch rivals Manchester United visits Anfield for a Premier League battle. This could be the match which decides if the Reds or Man Utd lands in top four.
To watch the Liverpool-Man United clashes gives me the jitters. I crave a win and dread a defeat. It´s the worst thing to see the gang from Old Trafford win and and the absolute best feeling to see our lads triumph. This time it´s even more urgent to win and therefore even more nerve-wracking.
A win for Liverpool would see us leapfrog United up to fourth. It would be the first time we are higher than fifth since matchday one in August. Right now Manchester United are two points better off than us so a win would give us a one point edge with eight matches to go. Not a huge margin but still something to work on and it´s always better to have a advantage than the opposite. A defeat could on the other hand be the end of Red top four hopes. Then Man Utd leaves us five points behind and even if it´s possible to bounce back it will certainly be extremely difficult.
It will be two in-form teams entering Anfield in a few hours. Liverpool has five wins on the trot and not a single league defeat in 13 games. The last one came against the Mancs in December so it´s a perfect opportunity for revenge. But it´s not gonna be easy. Man Utd has got a recent decent record themselves. Three straight wins and just two defeats in the last 19 league fixtures. They can also take heart from their 3-0 win versus Liverpool at Old Trafford.
But that was then, this is now, and Liverpool is playing far better than before Christmas. We were hardly outplayed in the game in Manchester, it was a even contest play-wise but United got the breaks and had some benevolent refereeing missing a clear offside ahead of the 2-0 goal.
If statistics plays any part then Liverpool has the upper hand. We can boast a good record in the last seven years when seven league and cup games at Anfield has produced five home wins.
But I don´t think previous meetings has any bearing on the result today. The bravest team will win and that is Liverpool in my book. We are almost always confident facing United at Anfield and they are in the same way almost always shaky when they step out in L4. This time so much is at stake so I guess both teams will be a little wary but it´s all about getting settled quickly and start bossing the game. I believe Liverpool can and will do it.
The way to do it is attack. Both teams has their main strength in attack and the Reds must make sure they are dominating the offensive play. The United defence can be a bit shaky at times, making silly mistakes, we have to make the most of it should it happen. At the same time our own defence need to perform as in recent months, with courage, determination and a no-nonsense attitude.
Most importantly is to get our magic playmaker Philippe Coutinho on the ball as much as possible. He has the keys to unlock any defence and when on song he also creates space for others. If he plays to his highest level then the vistors will find it hard to live with us. United has a lot of really expensive players, household names in the football world, but I think that Liverpool is more developed as a team and that could also be a decisive factor.
Furthermore, we have 40 000 Kopites to drag us over the line. I´m sure the Reds will be supported in a European night game kind of way and when this happens the twelfth man often has a say in the result.
The other eleven must of course do their part and I would field this Red guys to raise hopes even higher of a top four finish (in a 3-4-3 formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Emre Can. VB: Martin Skrtel. LB: Mamadou Sakho. RWB: Adam Lallana. CM: Jordan Henderson. CM: Joe Allen. RWB: Alberto Moreno. RF: Raheem Sterling. CF: Daniel Sturridge. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
This has more or less become the regular line-up as of late. Neither Adam Lallana nor Raheem Sterling is ideal as wingbacks but they have lately quite successfully shared the responibilty of the position in a couple of games. One of them has been holding back and taking care of defensive duties while the other has gone on an attacking mission. This has confused the opposition a bit not knowing if Lallana or Sterling is the attacking threat to watch.
Of course, Steven Gerrard can stake a claim in the line-up, now he´s injury-free, but I think it´s better to let him enter the field with half an hour to go. This eleven is working well together and there is no point in unsettling the side because of sentimental reasons it being Gerrard´s last chance against Man United. After all, football is about winning, not succumbing to emotional factors. The only emotions I want to indulge in this evening is the winning ones as:
We Go Again.
PreviewPosted by Leif Larsson Mon, March 16, 2015 14:40:30
Is Liverpool going to continue the fight for a Champions League place or is it a battle for a Europa League spot beckoning? Tonight a part of an answer will surface. If we beat Swansea away then we keep up with Manchester United and Arsenal above us who both won this weekend. If we lose then they are five respectively six points ahead of us and possibly uncatchable. A fight with Tottenham and Southampton for Europa League places is then likely.
Okay, nothing will be settled irrespectively of the result tonight. It´s still nine games to go after the clash versus Swansea. But it is of course better to be two points behind Manchester United in fourth place and three behind Arsenal in third instead of five and six points. Especially as these top four challengers are in fine form. Arsenal can boast five wins on the trot and Man Utd has six wins in the last eight. Both teams are accustomed to nervy and tight run-ins so they will probably keep picking up points and wins to the end. Liverpool need to keep their momentum going in order to stay within touching distance and not losing selfconfidence. We have twelve league matches, including nine wins, in a row without defeat, let´s hope for lucky thirteen.
Another significant number is the amount of matches left. In 2002 Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier uttered the words: We are 10 games away from greatness. Liverpool was then in the quarter finals of the Champions League and just one point off the top in the Premier League. The greatness never materialised, though. The Reds finished in second place in the league and was knocked out in the CL quarter finals.
Today we can say somthing similar: Liverpool are 10 games away from glory. Perhaps not the one to celebrate like crazy but if we reach top four it´s at least a considerable achievement bearing in mind our miserable start to the season. Check this out: On the 24th of November we had lost six of the first twelve games and were in 12th place behind teams like Newcastle, West Ham, Swansea, Everton and Stoke. Southampton was twelve points ahead of us and nothing, absolutely nothing, indicated a top four battle, let alone a top four finish.
But since then a remarkable upturn in form, results and quality of football has emerged. In the 16 games that followed, up until now, we have lost just one, won eleven and passed a host of teams, including Southampton, and are now sitting in fifth place close to top four. Liverpool has avoided any losses this calender year and has gained 30 points in the last twelve fixtures. If the Reds maintain this kind of points haul in the final ten matches then we end up on 76 points and most certainly among the teams in top four.
The tricky part is to keep winning. And the toughest period is the one coming up. Three difficult hurdles has to be manoeuvred. First up is Swansea tonight. Their form is up and down but at home they are always hard to beat. Liverpool has by the way never won at Liberty Stadium, lost one and drawn two. When Swansea played at Vetch Field the Reds only managed two wins in eight league encounters. On the plus side is three Liverpool wins in the last three meetings, but all was played at Anfield.
After the Swansea game we face Manchester United at home and Arsenal away, our two fiercest rivals for top four. If we lose these matches then we can kiss CL places goodbye. But on the other hand, if we win, then we have things in our own hands (and feet). So it´s hard to underestimate the importance of the matches versus Man Utd and Arsenal.
If we can pick up at least seven points in the upcoming three games then the future looks a lot rosier and easier. After Arsenal we host Newcastle, travels to Hull and West Bromwich, play at home to QPR before a tough one away to Chelsea. We conclude the season versus Crystal Palace at home and Stoke away. Six of these matches should be won if Liverpool can keep form and determination intact. Even the Chelsea match is a winnable one, at the moment Liverpool is as good, if not better, than the league leaders.
Six of the ten matches are away but it probably doesn´t matter so much. Right now Liverpool seem to be able to win wherever they put out their shoes. And after all, the Red support on away ground is always fantastic. The Kopites are more often than not more vociferous than the home crowd.
Reds fans will be needed tonight to help Liverpool start the ten match sequence on a happy note. Swansea won´t be afraid of Liverpool and is surely set out to attack. We have to be on our toes defensively and take care of former Red Jonjo Shelvey and his midfield partner Gylfi Sigurdsson. Both can unleash shots from distance so we must stop them getting those kind of opportunities.
If Liverpool is hitting the form ceiling, as we have done quite often recently, then the three points is bound to en up in the Red bag. I believe Liverpool will dominate the game and manage a victory, not a big one but a triumph nevertheless.
Here is the side I would like to see tonight (in a 3-4-3 formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Emre Can. CB: Martin Skrtel. LB: Mamadou Sakho. RWB: Glen Johnson. CM: Joe Allen. CM: Jordan Henderson. RWB: Alberto Moreno. RF: Adam Lallana. CF: Daniel Sturridge. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
Neither Lallana nor Raheem Sterling is good enough as right wingback so I´d put Johnson there. He is not a favourite of mine but is stronger and a bit better defensively than both Sterling and Lallana. It´s touch and go between Lallana and Sterling in the forward line but I think Lallana is the better option this time. Steven Gerrard should be kept on the bench, he is not fully match-fit and the tandem Allen-Henderson is working well and should not be dismantled. Dejan Lovren has been okay in the absence of Sakho but the latter is a safer choice at the moment. Mario Balotelli and Lazar Markovic is not good enough to start so it´s substitute roles for them.
Hopefully the Red machine can run as smoothly as in recent months and really roar:
We Go Again.
PreviewPosted by Leif Larsson Sun, March 08, 2015 11:48:30
Championship side Blackburn has eliminated Premier League clubs Swansea and Stoke in the FA Cup this season. Liverpool is duly warned ahead of Rovers visit to Anfield today for a clash in the sixth round, or quarterfinals if you like. On current form the Reds should win and reach Wembley where the semifinals are played.
But the cup is always a leveller. Often enough teams from lower divisions causes upsets, even on away ground. Blackburn is not particularly impressing in the league this season where they are in tenth position in the second tier and their current form is also patchy, just one win in the last five matches.
But there´s different story in the FA Cup. First they downed Charlton 2-1 and then Swansea 3-1 and Stoke 4-1. The job for Liverpool is to stop this increasing goalscoring sequence. The Reds have a couple of noteworthy streaks of their own. In the FA Cup we have knocked out three teams winning 2-1 on each occasion. I won´t mind if the same happens a fourth time. In the league we have an outstanding string of results winning nine and drawing three in our last twelve matches.
If form, quality and home turf is on Liverpool´s side then statistics is a worry, though small. Liverpool has faced Blackburn at home in the FA Cup five times through times and the first four ended in Red success. But in the last one, played in January 2000, Blackburn came out on top. Nathan Blake scored the only goal of the game in the 84th minute.
All things considered I would be extremely surprised if Liverpool let this one go. We play with determination, pace and aggression right now and are strong both defensively and attack-wise. If we play the way we have being doing lately then the visitors won´t be able to keep the Reds at bay. Two home goals without reply is what I expect from the Red men today.
This is how I would like Liverpool to line-up (in a now familiar 3-4-3 formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Emre Can. CB: Martin Skrtel. LB: Mamadou Sakho. RWB: Adam Lallana. CM: Jordan Henderson. DM: Joe Allen. LWB: Alberto Moreno. RF: Raheem Sterling. CF: Daniel Sturridge. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
In other words, the strongest possible team. We can´t afford to field a side without the men in form and losing out on our only chance of silverware this season. Dejan Lovren has been okay as a left defender in recent times but if Sakho is fit he should come back into the side. He is better than Lovren, both defensively and above all with his passing. Steven Gerrard is fit but should start on the bench, the Allen/Henderson partnership must be allowed to keep on thriving.
The game today is a really important one, a win would set up us nicely for the rest of the season. So just one thing to declare:
We Go Again.
PreviewPosted by Leif Larsson Wed, March 04, 2015 16:38:56
Burnley is in 19th place in the table, has won just one of their last eleven Premier League matches but it would still be extremely foolish by Liverpool to underestimate tonight´s opponents. After all, Burnley has managed several fine results versus top teams this season.
In recent times Liverpool has beaten top four rivals West Ham, Tottenham and Southampton and title chasers Manchester City. With this in mind Liverpool players might think that relegation strugglers Burnley at Anfield tonight will be a walk in the park. Well, if that is so they better wise up.
The visitors has often enough been inferior in their matches and so far they have only picked up 22 points in 27 games. They have managed just one away win and can only claim one win in the last eleven league fixtures and that was against fellow relegation candidate Queens Park Rangers.
But sometimes Burnley surprises and performs quite well. Title chasing teams Chelsea and Manchester City just managed draws at home versus the Clarets and at Turf Moor Burnley held Manchester United and downed Southampton. When on song, even if seldom, Burnley can be a handful. Liverpool experienced just that on Boxing Day when we won 1-0 but was indeed lucky as Burnley dominated the game and created more chances.
Liverpool is of course the better team and should win comprehensively and the biggest risk of failure tonight is if we indulge in complacency. A couple of months that was in fact a huge risk but lately Liverpool has been 100 percent focussed regardless of opposition. I trust the same will happen again.
The excellent form of late is also a factor in Liverpool´s favour. We can boast eleven league games on the trot without defeat and the last loss came in mid-December. Since then we have won eight and drawn three. Even so, another victory is necessary now. The Reds can´t afford to drop points against bottom half teams if the top four pursuit is to be maintained. There is at least five teams waiting for rivals to slip up so we must make sure it isn´t us.
As I already written it could prove to be a tricky game tonight. Burnley will fight for their lives as they need points to keep up with their adversaries at the bottom. The Clarets has proved that they can shut up shop against top teams and pick up unexpected points.
Liverpool could find it more difficult to score against them than versus Southampton, Manchester City and Tottenham. These teams assumed they could beat Liverpool by dominating the match and attack. Burnley have no such notions. They will most certainly clam up, put ten men behind the ball and try to hit us on the break. Liverpool must be aware defensively and have patience in attack and above all, find more telling final balls through the Burnley back four (five?). If we can achieve all that then the goals will stack up and the score end up being a convincing one.
This is the eleven Reds I would put my faith in to do the job (in a 3-4-3 formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Dejan Lovren. CB: Martin Skrtel. LB: Mamadou Sakho. RWB: Emre Can. DM: Joe Allen. CM: Jordan Henderson. LWB: Alberto Moreno. RF: Adam Lallana. CF: Raheem Sterling. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
I´d place Can at right wingback because I think Dejan Lovren can fill a back three spot now and Can is a better player than RWB challengers Lazar Markovic and Javier Manquillo. At RWB Can brings power, strength and skill to the position and the midfield. If Sakho can´t play then Can must play in the back three and Markovic come in at RWB. In central midfield Joe Allen is showing more and more what he can do and should be selected. In the central striker role Sterling is the better choice than Daniel Sturridge right now. Sturridge is not fully fit yet and must be brought back to the fore with care.
Last night Southampton won and leapfrogged us in the table. Time for us to pay them the same compliment in a few hours when:
We Go Again.
PreviewPosted by Leif Larsson Sun, March 01, 2015 11:25:03
Liverpool has eleven undefeated league games on the spin versus Manchester City at Anfield. Can our selected eleven Redmen, with the help of the twelfth man, make it a dozen today? A win would be a significant statement of solid present status and a huge boost in the quest for a top four finish.
Not since 2003 has Liverpool registred a loss at home to Man City. Since then we have won seven and drawn four. Last season Liverpool came out on top, 3-2, in a great encounter. Philippe Coutinho scored the winner twelve minutes from time.
Twelve is the significant number once again. It´s the number of matches remaining in the Premier League schedule and if the Reds can conquer the visitors then it´s twelve league matches in a row where Man City has returned from L4 without winning. And as always, the twelfth man is a major figure, the fan with 44 000 heads. The Red team need an European atmosphere today.
The game is vital to both teams. Liverpool must win to keep up with the top four pacesetters. Right now we are three points behind Arsenal in fourth place and trailing third placed Manchester United with five, but they have one more game played. Still, a defeat could mean that we are five points off top four with just eleven matches to go. Not a healthy position.
Manchester City also crave a victory. They are in second place five points behind league leaders Chelsea and a defeat could men the end of their title assault.
When a lot is at stake matches tend to be cagey. Not this one, that I´m sure of. Both sides will set out to attack and win by taking the game to the opponent. The last five meetings at Anfield is an indicator of an attack-minded approach, these games have produced 18 goals, an average of 3,6 goals per game.
Both teams are in excellent form, at least in the league. Liverpool has gone ten matches without defeat, winning seven and is undefeated during 2015, the only team in the division with that feat. The last 14 matches contains just one loss and the last defeat at home took place in early November. The Red record is also pretty good goal-wise. We have found the net in nine of the last ten league matches.
Manchester City is also impressing. They have just one defeat in the last 17 league matches and haven´t lost away since October. City has failed to score just twice in 26 matches and found the net in all of their 13 away games.
As you can see a pretty tough proposition awaits the Reds. Liverpool is also hit by injuries and at this time it´s up in the air which players are available. Five or six major players are probably out. The visitors are not stricken to the same extent. In that sense Man City has the edge and even more so regarding rest between matches. Liverpool had an away match as far away as Turkey on Thursday night while Man City played at home on Tuesday. This will in all certainty mean that the light blue team is fresher and I dread the final 20-30 minutes when it really can show. The difference in preparation is in this aspect a bit unfair but I haven´t seen any particular complaints from Liverpool.
What if Chelsea would have had to cope with this situation ahead of a clash with Man City? Their manager José Mourinho would scream about an enormous conspiracy, injustice and demand an hour screen-time on the telly to tell how badly treated his club is an how everybody is trying to destroy them. In other words, another laughable clown showing.
The match at L4 today will produce great entertainment, I would be really surprised if not. The best way to beat Man City is to attack, if you let them be in command then a certain defeat awaits. So I would field an attacking side in this crucial game. Like this (in a 3-4-3 formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Kolo Toure. CB: Martin Skrtel. LB: Dejan Lovren. DM: Emre Can. RWB: Jordon Ibe. CM: Jordan Henderson. LWB: Alberto Moreno. RF: Adam Lallana. CF: Daniel Sturridge. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
If Mamadou Sakho is fit I would play him at LB and Lovren at RB and have Toure on the bench. Hopefully both Henderson and Coutinho has recovered from their knocks. If not, then Joe Allen has to come in aswell as Raheem Sterling. The latter has been out of form and looked a bit tired so it would be better if he came in from the bench.
For the umpteenth time this season an extremely important match is on the cards. I am quite optimistic about this one and can say with confidence:
We Go Again.
PreviewPosted by Leif Larsson Thu, February 26, 2015 10:38:50
What does this cryptic headline mean? It urges Liverpool to do the same thing as the Turkish Süper Lig team Eskisehirspor has done this season, namely beat Besiktas 1-0 at home and draw 1-1 away. If the Reds can copy that record then we are through in the Europa League.
A week ago Liverpool managed to down Besiktas 1-0 in the Europa League at Anfield. Tonight the teams meet in Istanbul in the return leg in the round of 32 and a 1-1 draw would send the visitors to the next stage. If we claim these result then we have copied Eskisehirspor, currently in 13th place in the Turkish league. They caught Besiktas in a bad mood and beat them 1-0 in the league three days after Liverpool had their 1-0 win. In September Eskisehirspor drew away to Besiktas, 1-1, and a similar result would suit the Reds perfectly tonight.
The match is played at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium, the same venue where Liverpool triumphed in the Champions League final in 2005. So perhaps a 3-3 result tonight would be appropiate. Besiktas normally plays at another stadium, nowadays called Vodafone Arena, but it is under reconstruction so their games during the 2014/15 season are played at Liverpool´s happy hunting ground.
After the hard-fought win versus Besiktas at Anfield Liverpool went to Southampton and orchestrated another fine victory. We did it by playing what could be described as a perfect European away game, soaking up pressure and hitting the opposition on the break. It could be used as a dress rehearsal to the real European match tonight. A performance like the one against Southampton will do nicely. A win is of course what we want but a draw and even a defeat by the odd goal, if we score, is also enough for progress.
At Anfield Besiktas, currently second in the Turkish league, proved to be a really good team. They were defensively compact and very comfortable in possession. It will be a tough proposition for Liverpool as Besiktas surely will attack more now than in the first leg. Once again our defence and goalkeeper must be at their best, as they have in recent weeks.
I will be interesting to see if the home side goes all out attack from the start or plays a bit cautious to prevent Liverpool from hitting them on the break, score an early goal and force them to chase the game. Because if Liverpool score then Besiktas need to score three to win overall. The most likely scenario is a tight game. Liverpool need to take care of goal scoring opportunities, there won´t be many.
The Reds can take heart from the fact that Besiktas appears to be a bit out of form, losing two matches on the trot without scoring. Another boosting factor is Besiktas home record. They have indeed just lost two home league matches but it was versus Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, 0-2 against both, the other two sides at the top of the table. Apparently good teams can come to Besiktas and win. And I like to think that Liverpool is included in that bracket.
I would send out this eleven Red players (in a 3-4-3 formation):
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Kolo Toure. CB: Martin Skrtel. LB: Dejan Lovren. RWB: Jordon Ibe. DM: Emre Can. CM: Joe Allen. LWB: Alberto Moreno. RF: Adam Lallana. CF: Daniel Sturridge. LF: Raheem Sterling.
The Liverpool injury list is growing at an alarming pace and recent additions is Jordan Henderson and Glen Johnson joining Steven Gerrard, Mamadou Sakho, José Enrique, Jon Flanagan and Lucas Leiva in this sorry group. Another two players are missing, Philippe Coutinho, rested, and Lazar Markovic, suspended, and that means Liverpool is forced to field a makeshift team tonight. It would be wise to give Mario Balotelli and perhaps young Jordan Williams or Fabio Borini a healthy dose of game time in the second half to keep newly-injured Sturridge and Sterling from being over-worked.
Just as the schedule is at it´s most compact look the squad gets stretched to it´s limits. It will be interesting to see if it stands the test when:
We Go Again.