Liverpool entertain Swiss side FC Basel in the final group B game today and it promises to be an intriguing encounter as the reds need to win the game to qualify for the next round.
Liverpool are yet to win a game since the opening day victory against Bulgarian side Ludogorets and will hope that the spirited atmosphere at Anfield in the European nights will help them beat Basel who in truth stand as slight favourites considering their current form and their record against English opposition in the last few years.
Brendan Rodgers admitted that Liverpool will need to fight and have enough goals in the squad in order to beat Basel despite struggling lately in the attacking areas. The Merseyside club stopped a three-match losing streak in the Champions League after their draw with Ludogorets and will look for some sort of inspiration from their skipper Steven Gerrard to seal qualification.
Paulo Sosa’s men have been in brilliant form in the league and are eight points clear at this point which underlines their dominance. A draw against Liverpool would be enough for them to qualify, but it’s unlikely that they’ll play a defensive game.
Tactics and probable line-ups
Brendan Rodgers has adopted a more compact approach at the back off late and it has worked to a certain extent as his side have conceded just one goal in the last three league games. However, his side are yet to keep a clean sheet in the Champions League.
Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva has started the last two games for Liverpool and has put in good performances. The holding midfielder has provided the extra protection to the back four that Steven Gerrard wasn’t doing when he was deployed there. With Lucas’ presence, Rodgers can now play Gerrard in an attacking role which we witnessed against Leicester City and Sunderland.
The defensive pairing of Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel have done well, especially the former who has impressed and could start ahead of summer signing Dejan Lovren once again.
Rodgers went with a 4-2-3-1 approach against Sunderland on Saturday and could once again go with the same formation with Gerrard starting ahead of Philippe Coutinho. Rickie Lambert is expected to lead the line once again as Mario Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge are still out injured.
Predicted line-up (4-2-3-1): Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Toure, Moreno, Lucas, Henderson, Gerrard, Sterling, Lallana, Lambert.
Part of the reason on why Basel have been in rip-roaring form this season is the form of attacking midfielder Shkelzen Gashi. The 26-year old has been a key player in the attacking areas as he has scored 11 times and provided three assists for his teammates. Striker Marco Streller has been in decent form as well, but his game is more than just the goals he scores.
Basel beat 10th placed FC Luzern by three goals in their last game and rested a few key players for the Liverpool clash. Manager Paulo Sosa could go with a 4-3-3 formation that he has employed in the last few games with Gasha and 17-year old striker Embolo being deployed on the wings with Streller leading the line.
Central midfielder Luca Zuffi has served the role of playmaker excellently this season and could start alongside Marcelo Díaz and Fabian Frei. Sosa likes his team to attack, so you can expect a positive mindset from the Basel players instead of holding on for a point
Predicted line-up (4-3-3): Vaclík, Safari, Suchý, Schär, Xhaka, Frei, Marcelo Díaz, Zuffi, Gashi, Streller, Embolo
Player To Watch Out For
The skipper usually inspires his side in such big games and with Rodgers deploying him in the number 10 role recently, he could have the chance to do so again.
Liverpool were in a similar situation in the 2004-05 season when they needed to beat Olympiacos in order to qualify from the group. Gerrard struck an awesome volley to clinch qualification and lead his side to the trophy. Will history repeat itself? You never know!
Liverpool and Basel have played three times against each other and the Swiss side remain unbeaten with a record of two wins and a draw.
Despite Basel starting as slight favourites, Liverpool could clinch qualification simply because of the support of the famous Kop. The stadium will be rocking and will make sure that the players give in that extra 10% when they turn out to play.
Liverpool 2-0 FC Basel