Liverpool meet Turkish side Besiktas in the first leg of the last-32 clash at Anfield on Thursday night.
After a woeful start to the season that saw the Reds drop out of the Champions League in the group stage itself, Liverpool have enjoyed an upturn in form recently, with Brendan Rodgers finally finding a right system and formation for his side along with the return of Daniel Sturridge from injury and now the resurgence of summer signing Mario Balotelli.
Liverpool only have one defeat since the 0-3 loss at Old Trafford at the hands of Manchester United in December (the loss to Chelsea in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final). They are undefeated in the league in 2015 and have won four in five games (in all competitions) with Sturridge netting twice over that period. Mario Balotelli and Adam Lallana have a goal and an assist each in two successive games and Liverpool’s new backline looks stronger than ever.
It will be a tough game for the Turkish side but Liverpool also can’t afford to underestimate the side. Besiktas are currently league leaders in the Turkish Super Lig and could well pose a surprise for the Redmen.
Their manager and former Everton and West Ham defender Slaven Bilic believes his side would have to keep a special eye on Liverpool’s wide men, such as Raheem Sterling, Jordon Ibe and Philippe Coutinho.
“When playing against an English side you must stop them playing down the wings, if you give them space on the flanks to deliver crosses you will suffer,” Bilic said.
“We have to defend our flanks well, it is essential if we are to win, (full-backs Ramon) Motta and Serdar Kurtulus have a huge task.
Bilic singled out Coutinho as the main man for Liverpool. Rodgers’ once called Coutinho the brain of Liverpool’s creative work and the Brazilian is proving the Northern Irishman’s words to be extremely right.
“Coutinho is an exceptional talent, we cannot afford to give him time and space on the ball,” he said.