LIVERPOOL (Eng) v ATLETICO MADRID (Spa)
April 29, 2010
0035 IST (Fri Morning) – LIVE on Ten Sports
Atletico Madrid take a slender lead to one of the most feared stadiums in Europe – Anfield. With a rich history of European success and home advantage, the English side is bound to put up a better show than they did in the first leg. The first-leg could not have been further away from a football spectacle, but how much of a factor was the long trip that Rafa Benitez’s men had to endure to reach Madrid?
This competition offers both clubs an opportunity to semi-salvage a season that has been in tatters right from the beginning, and for their managers to take a huge step towards safeguarding their respective jobs.
Anfield will be the telling factor in the game. Atletico need to stifle the home side in the first quarter of the match because if Liverpool score early, the Liverpool supporters will be more than just spectators in this game. Liverpool’s first-leg defeat wasn’t a huge surprise since they have been woeful away from home – winning only five of their 18 league games and twice in 7 matches in Europe. This is the third tie in a row in the Europa League, in which Liverpool has suffered an away defeat in the first leg, only to cover it up at home in the first two instances.
Liverpool look to ‘saviour’ Stevie again
Both teams had easy victories last weekend. Liverpool thrashed the third-from-bottom Burnley side 4-0, while Atletico defeated third-from-bottom Tenerife 3-1. Atletico’s win snapped their three-game losing streak in the league, while Liverpool’s victory kept their faint Champions League hopes alive.
If Torres’s absence wasn’t a major enough blow to the English side, striking duo of Dirk Kuyt and David Ngog are major doubts for the game. This leaves Ryan Babel, who missed the first leg through suspension, as the only striking option. In complete contrast to Liverpool’s striking problems, Atletico’s Sergio Aguero returns to be re-united with first-leg’s match winner Diego Forlan to form a potent strike-partnership.
Left-back problems still persist for the reds with both Fabio Aurelio and Emiliano Insua not available, while Martin Skrtel is missing from central defence. Tiago and Ibrahima are ineligible to play in the Europa League, and so is ex-Atletico man Maxi Rodriguez.
LIVERPOOL 2-1 ATLETICO MADRID
This match is too tight to call. If Ryan Babel is required to play as a striker, it could be a blessing in disguise for Liverpool. He might be frustrating at times but he has pace and is definitely a sharper option than both Kuyt and Ngog. However, it is unlikely that Atletico will not score and scoring three goals without Torres could be too much to ask for from a depleted home side. THT predicts the reds to miss out on the final.
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out:
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) If Liverpool are to pull-off another wonderful comeback, you feel it will be about one man, and one man only – captain Steven Gerrard. He has often lifted the team on his own and after a stunning goal at the weekend, has he finally found his shooting boots to fire Liverpool into a European final?
FULHAM (Eng) v HAMBURGER SV (Ger)
Craven Cottage, London
April 29, 2010
0035 IST (Fri Morning) – LIVE on Zee Sports
A major change from the first-leg is the sacking of coach Bruno Labbadia. A goalless draw in the first-leg followed by a 5-1 defeat at Hoffenhaim was the last nail in Labbadia’s metaphorical coffin. Ricardo Moniz has taken over at the club and his first task is a small one – a score-draw or better at Craven Cottage to return home for a European final.
In Roy Hodgson’s Fulham, Hamburg face a team capable of overturning virtually impossible situations, overcoming heavy odds and produce performances to down any team in Europe, especially at home. Fulham have beaten the likes of defending champions Shakhtar Donetsk and runners-up Wolfsburg at Craven Cottage; and sensationally thrashed Italian giants Juventus as well.
Hamburg have a 2-1-2 record in their last five games, while Fulham suffered their first defeat in five games, managing to score for the first time in an away defeat to Everton following three consecutive goalless draws.
Zamora has often carried his team to victory
Fulham are sweating on the fitness of their talisman Bobby Zamora. He is going to face a late fitness test and could be a key absentee for the Cottagers. Andrew Johnson is a long-term injury for Fulham, while Nicky Shorey and Stefano Okaka are ineligible for this fixture. Half the team were rested on the weekend and will be fresh for this game.
Eljero Elia and Marcell Jansen are key absentees for Hamburg. Romeo Castelen, Tunay Torun and Collin Benjamin are also injured, but right-back Guy Demel might be available for this leg.
FULHAM 2-0 HAMBURG
When English sides play at home, the advantage does count – just ask Juventus. Just before last Thursday, Hamburg were dreaming of a home European final but all that optimism has fast changed into pessimism by the sacking of coach Labbadia. All this negativity is bound to take it’s toll on the players and THT cannot see past a Fulham win to guarantee at least one English side in the final.
THT’s Player To Watch Out:
Bobby Zamora (Fulham)
The Fulham striker is likely to play through the pain to inspire his team-mates. He has been a revelation for Fulham this season and cries for him to be in the England squad can be heard from Craven Cottage.