Stade Tourbillon, Sion
December 10 2015; 18:00 GMT
Liverpool have successfully negotiated their first European fixtures under Jurgen Klopp and have hence avoided putting themselves into a must-win position like fellow Premier League big boys Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal put themselves in the Champions League, earlier this week.
FC Sion, on the other hand, are in a great position to qualify for the knockout stages themselves – all they need to do ensure that they do not lose at home to Liverpool. Win, and they will, in fact, finish top of their group.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Even though Sion go into this game knowing they will need a win in order to finish top of the group, they will have noticed Liverpool’s ability to hurt teams that attempt to attack and go toe to toe with them.
Moreover, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has himself acknowledged that Sion themselves are capable of hurting teams on the counter. Hence, one can expect manager FC Sion manager Didier Tholot to instruct his team to sit back, absorb pressure and push forward in bursts, once they win the ball back.
Sion have shown better form in Europe this season than at home. They currently sit 6th out of 10 teams in the Swiss Super League, having already played 18 out of the required 36 games in the Swiss League season. Recently, Sion have lost three of their last six home games in all competitions.
Tholot has used the 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formations in recent European games, and his final decision will depend on whether they target a win to top the group and record a first against Liverpool, or if they set themselves up to the bare minimum that is required to qualify for the knockout stages.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Vanins, Ziegler, Lacroix, Zverotic, Kouassi, Salatic, Pa Modou, Fernandes, Carlitos, Konate, Assifuah
Jurgen Klopp has displayed a refreshing attitude towards cup competitions by taking each game seriously, yet appreciating the need to use their squad wisely since games come thick and fast.
The trip to Sion will be a fascinating one for the Liverpool supporters, as the Reds are in a unique position of having qualified for the knockout stages with a game to spare. Hence, it is impossible to tell at this point, what Klopp’s actual plan for the game will be.
The Reds have already left a few players at home, though. Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen and Alberto Moreno have not made the trip, while Jordon Ibe has been suffering from illness all week. Jurgen Klopp has confirmed that Daniel Sturridge is not fit enough to travel to Switzerland. However, he emphasised that Sturridge’s injury is not as serious as previously was rumoured.
Moreno being left behind on Merseyside gives Klopp the chance to use either one of Conor Randall or Australian left back Brad Smith in his place. Nathaniel Clyne is the only fit senior right back on the club’s books at this time, but Klopp might decide to start him in order to not make changes in both full back positions simultaneously.
Emre Can returns from suspension, and will surely replace Lucas. Jordan Rossiter is fit again, while captain Jordan Henderson will be looking to get more game time in order to build match fitness. Klopp will certainly have a few choices to make with regards to the makeup of his starting eleven.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Mignolet, Clyne, Toure, Lovren, Smith, Can, Milner, Ibe, Firmino, Lallana, Origi
- Liverpool have not won three in succession in Europe since the qualifiers against Gomel (twice) and Hearts in 2012.
- It has been more than three years since Liverpool scored at least two goals in successive European games (five at Young Boys and two against Udinese in 2012).
- Of all current players at Liverpool, Lucas is the club’s leading scorer in Europe with three goals.
Player to Watch
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Robero Firmino was criticised by John Aldridge for his performance at Newcastle, accusing him of not putting in all the effort he could, pulling out of 50-50 challenges and not supporting Christian Benteke up front well enough. Aside from a sterling performance away at Manchester City, Roberto Firmino’s performances have indeed been poor, failing to show thus far why Liverpool paid upwards of A?29 million for him.
It is impossible to tell, at the time of writing, what Klopp’s actual plan for the game will be, since Liverpool have already qualified for the knockout stages; but if Firmino starts as part of a three-man strike force, then it is evident that Klopp is backing the Brazilian to play himself into form. Either way, Firmino will have a sizeable task on his hands.
Sion 0-1 Liverpool
Although FC Sion have been strong in Europe this season, Jurgen Klopp would be looking for a reaction from his side after the humiliating 2-0 loss to the relegation-threatened Newcastele United in the weekend. A charged-up Liverpool, backed by a doubly charged-up Klopp can mean only one thing — victory for the Reds.