Every Red fan gets goosebumps when St Etienne, Roma and Olympiakos are mentioned. Is it time to add FC Basel to the Liverpool FC folklore? To do that we must beat the Swiss side tonight at Anfield in a decisive clash i Champions League group B.
In 1977, 2002 and 2004 Liverpool needed two goal victories at Anfield versus St Etienne, Roma and Olympiakos to progress in the European Cup/Champions League. On each occasion Liverpool managed to pull it off even if it was close shaves. These matches are remembered by many fans as highlights in Red history.
It was quite some time since Liverpool did something similar and in the process sent themselves through and the supporters to seventh heaven.
Tonight at Anfield a great opportunity arises. But this time it will be enough to win by a single goal to get to the knockout stages. If we draw or lose then Basel is in the draw for the last 16.
It won´t be easy to beat the Swiss champions. They lead the domestic Super League with eight points and are set to lift the league trophy once more. At the same time Liverpool is struggling in the Premier League being placed in a lowly ninth position. And we saw in the previous meeting in Switzerland in October that Basel is a good side. Their 1-0 win mirrored that match.
This will be the fourth time the teams face each other. In 2002 two draws meant that Basel progressed from the group stage and Liverpool got knocked out. The revenge has been long time coming.
Can Liverpool once more produce a classic Euro showing? It will take a fantastic effort to do it. Basel has got a lot of experience from playing in Europe and won´t be intimidated by Liverpool. Another matter is if the fans can create the famous loud atmosphere. That could unnerve the guests a bit. But it won´t be enough with the twelfth man roar, we probabaly need the 13th and the 14th, if you follow my drift.
A win would be rewarding and necessary. To be able to look forward to more Champions League games in February is of course nice. A favourable result will also instill much needed self-confidence in the Red squad ahead of a hectic festive schedule. We certainly need self-belief to be able to keep up with the top four challenging teams.
On the other hand, if we get kicked out of the tournament it will be a kick in the teeth and could start a sequence of bad results. So weak is the Liverpool self-belief at the moment. Remember that we meet fierce rivals Manchester United after Basel so it would be a perfect tonic to go into that game with a recent Champions League success.
What kind of strategy is best tonight? First and foremost it´s important not to let in an early goal. If we do then we must chase the game and score twice. Never a nice or easy prospect. Better then to keep it tight at the beginning and little by little making the attacking play count.
The ideal is of course to start at 100 mph and be aggressive. But Liverpool hasn´t the ability to play that kind of football right now so a more cautious approach is required. Figure the opponents out, keep them at bay, and then strike can be the winning way.
Manager Brendan Rodgers has opted for rotation this autumn and he will probably continue now. Steven Gerrard will be back in the starting line-up, that´s for sure. And it´s the right move, the captain is still feared by European teams because of exploits through the years. He will be well marked and that can open up for other Reds.
We also need steel to stop and frustrate Basel but sadly we doesn´t have so much of that in the squad but I would field José Enrique, Emre Can and Lucas Leiva to at least get some of it. For speed, energy and imagination up front I would go for Raheem Sterling, Fabio Borini and Philippe Coutinho. Experience is also a must in the line-up. This is my preferred team tonight:
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Glen Johnson. CB: Martin Skrtel. CB: Kolo Toure. LB: José Enrique. DM: Emre Can. DM: Lucas Leiva. RM: Raheem Sterling. CM: Steven Gerrard. LM: Philippe Coutinho. CF: Fabio Borini.
Mignolet has not a pair of safe hands but is at least a good shot-stopper. Johnson and Enrique are more used to this kind of matches and therefore gets the nod ahead of Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno. Jordan Henderson has been invisible in recent matches and is not good enough to start. Rickie Lambert is too slow for Euro football and Adam Lallana has not been able to recreate the form he showed in Southampton last season. Hence the line-up above.
Let´s hope and pray that we can keep ourselves in the Champions League so it´s possible in February to say:
We Go Again.