Liverpool will look to seal their progress to the Round of 16 and clinch top spot in Group E when they host Spartak Moscow at Anfield on Wednesday

The curtains are set to fall on the UEFA Champions League Group Stage on Wednesday, with Matchday 6. At Anfield, Liverpool will be aiming to finally clinch their place in the Round of 16 while sealing top spot in Group E at the same time, when they play hosts to Spartak Moscow at Anfield.

The two sides are currently separated by just three points in a wide open Group E. While the hosts sit top of the table with nine points, Spartak are in third place with six points. The Reds do look like the favourites to progress to the knockout stages, but a shock loss could spell trouble for their Champions League aspirations.

Jurgen Klopp’s men come into this match on the back of a formidable run of form though, having not lost any of their last eight games in all competitions. The visitors, too, have been on quite a run, losing just one game since August – a run of 18 games in all competitions.

The reverse fixture at the Otkytiye Arena, on Matchday 2, ended in a 1-1 draw as a resolute Spartak side held off a relentless Liverpool attack. Ahead of their latest meeting on Wednesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp has a few injury concerns to deal with ahead of the visit of Spartak Moscow. The Liverpool boss could, in fact, be without as many as seven first-team players for Wednesday’s tie due to various short-to-long term injuries.

The latest player on the treatment table is Marko Grujic, who is recovering from a hand injury. The Serb has joined Nathaniel Clyne (back), Adam Bogdan (ACL) and Danny Ward (back) on the sidelines, while there are doubts over the availability of Adam Lallana (match fitness) and Joe Gomez (illness).

But, the worst piece of news surrounds the continues absence of Joel Matip, who is on the treatment table due to a muscle injury. The Cameroonian’s situation leaves Klopp down to his bare bones at the heart of defence, with just Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan the fit centre-backs.

Meanwhile, Loris Karius should resume his exclusive Champions League place between the sticks on Wednesday. Sadio Mane and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are also likely to return to the starting lineup as Jurgen Klopp continues to rotate his squad in a busy December.

Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Klavan, Moreno; Can, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Mane, Sturridge, Solanke

Liverpool

Spartak Moscow

Like Klopp, Massimo Carrera, too, has several fitness problems hampering his preparations for the crunch Champions League tie. Ahead of the visit to Liverpool on Wednesday, the Spartak Moscow boss is set to be without four key first-team players.

There are major problems in midfield, with Artem Timofeev (knee), Dmitri Kombarov (rib) and Jano Ananidze (ankle) on the treatment table due to their respective short-to-long-term injuries. Georgi Tigiev is absent too, with the left-back recovering from ruptured cruciate ligament.

Meanwhile, the onus will be on Spartak’s in-form Dutchman Quincy Promes to provide the attacking threat from the left flank, while the dead-ball abilities of Fernando are all to well known for the Liverpool fans. Artem Rebrov is likely to be a busy man in goal, just like the reverse fixture, back in September.

Probable Starting Lineup (3-4-3): Rebrov; Tasci, Bocchetti, Dzhikiya; Eschenko, Fernando, Glushakov, Kombarov; Samedov, Adriano, Promes

Key Stats

  • Liverpool need just one more point to confirm their safe passage into the Round of 16, although they are likely to be in need of three points to confirm their status as Group E winners.
  • The Reds have lost just once at home against Russian opposition, with the loss coincidentally coming against Spartak Moscow in the 1992-93 Cup Winners’ Cup (W3 D2).
  • Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 12 European home matches (W8 D4), since a 3-0 loss to Real Madrid CF on 22 October 2014.
  • Spartak Moscow have not won a single away game in Europe in their last 10 attempts, with their last success coming in the 2010-11 UEFA Europa League Round of 16 over Ajax (D5 L5).
  • The Russian side’s record in England isn’t too shabby though, having won four of their nine games in the country (D1 L4), although they’ve failed to win any of their last five.

Player To Watch

Dejan Lovren

A calm head at the back? (Photo courtesy - Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

A calm head at the back? (Photo courtesy – Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Liverpool have been flying after receiving a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Tottenham in October. While much of the recent success has been built on the back of their undoubted attacking prowess, the Reds’ defence has stepped up as well, bar a few failures, in recent weeks.

At the heart of defence, a certain Dejan Lovren has boasted a much improved look of late, and with the likelihood of either Emre Can or Georginio Wijnaldum again, the task of organising the back four will fall on his shoulders. Only time will tell if he can continue this run of form but for now, his importance can’t be stressed enough.

Prediction

Liverpool 2-1 Spartak Moscow

Things have gone right down the wire in Group E, with none of the qualifiers confirmed yet for the Round of 16. Liverpool find themselves in the driver’s seat as far as qualification permutations are concerned, and are the favourites to proceed, with the final game being played at home.

Spartak Moscow are no pushovers though, as they have shown so effectively so far in the Group Stage. When up against it, Massimo Carrera’s men can absorb the pressure, but on the night, the Reds’ attacking form could be too good to contain.

The Hard Tackle predicts a hard-fought 2-1 win for Jurgen Klopp & co. to proceed to the Round of 16 as winners of Group E.

Leave A Comment...

*