October 1, 2014, 19:45 BST
St. Jakob-Park, Basel
FC Basel has always proved to be a tricky test for English teams. The Swiss team has defeated Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in the past few seasons and Liverpool have also drawn a decisive fixture 3-3 there in 2002.
Basel were demolished 5-1 by a rampant Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in their opening fixture and the Swiss outfit would want to register a win over their somewhat struggling opponents. For Rodgers, a win would be crucial as he certainly wouldn’t want to face Real Madrid having drawn this fixture. While progressing out of the group won’t be affected with a loss, Liverpool are in dire need of convincing and solid performances and this game could be the one from where they build momentum.
Team News, Tactics and Predicted Line-up
After Murat Yakin left the club this summer, after a successful spell, former QPR, Swansea and Leicester boss Paulo Sousa took charge of the club in the summer. He is currently enjoying a decent spell himself as his side are on top in the table having won 7 out of their 10 games.
Basel is likely to play a 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-2-1 formation as they have during this season. We are likely to once again see two attacking midfielders support Strellar in attack. Strellar is enjoying a good spell at the moment and has scored five goals in seven games in the Swiss League. The attacking midfielders can be two out of Luca Zuffi, Matias Delgado, Shkelzen Gashi or Derlis González. 20 year old Gonzalez was brought from Benfica this summer and has become quite an important part of Sousa’s unit. The 20 year old has operated both behind the striker and on the wings so it would be interesting to see where he is asked to be used in this match. Given the fragile nature of Liverpool’s central defense, it would make more sense to pose as much threat from the centre. In the central midfield, we are likely to see Fabian Frei and Mohamed Elneny alongside Ivory Coast international Serey Die. If Sousa is feeling adventurous, he might decide to use three attacking midfielders with one of them operating in a deeper role. He might then use Die in a holding role and Frei in a supporting role.
In the defense, highly rated 22 year old Fabian Schär, Marek Suchy and Taulant Xhaka will be used. Xhaka played as a wing-back against Real Madrid and there is a good chance, he does the same against Liverpool too. In that case, Walter Samuel can come in for the Swiss side and line-up alongside Schar and Suchy. The left wing-back spot will probably be filled by Behrang Safari. Tomás Vaclík will operate in goal.
Probable Line-up 3-4-2-1: Vaclíc; Suchy, Schär, Samuel; Xhaka, Die, Frei, Safari; Zuffi, González; Strellar
Liverpool are currently without Daniel Sturridge and his absence is hurting the club dearly. Sturridge fits into Brendan Rodgers’ attacking philosophy without the talismanic striker, the Reds are unable to hurt their opposition. Mario Balotelli is once again likely to start as a sole striker. The Italian has failed to have much impact since his arrival and the injury to Sturridge hasn’t helped his case. However, when you are Mario Balotelli, you are expected to make an impression early on. So far, the Italian has impressed with his work rate- he drops back (maybe too much), contributes in defending, helps out his teammates- but has not impressed as a striker. He missed some easy chances against Everton including one created by Raheem Sterling and was too often caught in the midfield, not helping the surging runs made by Lallana and Sterling. The 24 year old ex-Milan man needs to have an effective game against Basel and has to prove why Rodgers brought him to Merseyside in the first place.
We will see Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana behind Balotelli. The trio would need to both try and score themselves as well as helping out their striker. With a game against West Brom in four days, ideally, one of Lallana or Sterling needs to be rested. Markovic and Suso can be used in that case. However, given Liverpool’s form and lack of creative spark, it is likely that Rodgers is forced to pick both the players. Henderson and Gerrard would start in the midfield.
Liverpool’s defense has been a cause of worry this season despite the heavy investments Liverpool management made in the summer. The duo of Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel were good against Everton, barring a header gone wrong by Lovren in the last minute against Everton which lead to Jagielka’s cracking goal, but that was more the case of the opponent taking his chance with an audacious shot and getting it correct than the outright fault of the defense. Skrtel and Lovren would want to build on their partnership and try to keep a clean sheet. Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno will occupy the full back spots. Under-fire Mignolet will continue in goal.
Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): Mignolet; Manquillo, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Gerrard, Henderson; Lallana, Sterling, Coutinho; Balotelli
- Last season, Basel won five of their eight home European fixtures and lost just once, to Schalke.
- Liverpool have never failed to score in Switzerland, with 14 goals in five games.
Player to watch out for:
Fabian Schär (Basel)
The 22 year old defender has been rated highly as he is composed and solid in defense. He is in his last year of contract with the Swiss club Dortmund, Inter, Arsenal and Spurs are all interested in signing him. He is comfortable on the ball, comfortable while making interceptions and and can also score from free-kicks. For just 22, his organization and leadership skills at the back come in very handy for his team- something the much more experienced Liverpool defenders need to learn from. Definitely one to keep an eye out for.