Liverpool will welcome Serbian outfit Crvena Zvezda to Anfield, for their third Group C clash of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
Liverpool will be aiming to get back to winning ways in the UEFA Champions League, when they go head to head against Serbian Super Liga leaders Crvena Zvezda on Wednesday night.
Liverpool come into the game on the back of a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Huddersfield Town in the Premier League, bringing an end to a four-match run without a victory across all competitions. And they will be hoping to build on that and bag all three points on Wednesday night.
Jurgen Klopp’s men were beaten 1-0 by Napoli in their last European assignment, which left them in the second spot in Group C, with three points from two games, one point behind leaders Napoli and level on points with third-placed Paris Saint-Germain. With the Italians now facing back-to-back fixtures against the Ligue 1 champions, Liverpool cannot afford to drop points.
Crvena Zvezda, popularly known as Red Star Belgrade, are at the top of the Serbian top-flight, but find themselves at the bottom of Group C, having collected a single point from their two matches, courtesy of their goalless draw against Napoli in their opening fixture.
They were brutally thrashed 6-1 by PSG last time out in Europe, but following that beating, Vladen Milojevic’s men have registered three back to back victories in their domestic competition. Having shown that they can hold their own against Napoli, Zvezda will be hoping to put up a strong fight at Anfield and come away with at least a point.
Team News & Tactics
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has been ruled out of the game, after he picked up an injury in the weekend encounter against Huddersfield. He joins fellow midfielder Naby Keita on the sidelines, who returned with an injury from international duty.
Sadio Mane, who underwent a surgery on his hand recently, is fit and available for selection, while the manager has revealed that midfielders James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum are carrying slight knocks, but will be fit for the game. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains a long-term absentee.
Liverpool will once again line up in the 4-3-3 formation once again, with summer signing Alisson Becker under the crossbar. Trent Alexander-Arnold, who hasn’t started the Reds’ last two league matches, should be in line for a recall at right-back, while Andrew Robertson will hold on to his spot on the opposite side.
Virgil van Dijk will start in the heart of the defence, alongside Joe Gomez, with Dejan Lovren dropping out. With Henderson ruled out, summer arrival Fabinho is likely to get the nod at the base of the midfield, with Wijnaldum and Milner taking up the remaining two slots in the middle of the park.
Mohamed Salah was on the scoresheet at the weekend and will hold on to his spot on the right flank, while the fit again Mane is likely to come back into the team on the left side of the attack. Daniel Sturridge started as the striker against the Terriers, but should make way for Roberto Firmino on Wednesday night.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane;
The visitors have suffered a major blow after former Chelsea winger Marko Marin was ruled out of their Champions League trip to Liverpool. He joins left-back Milan Rodic and midfielder Jonathan Cafu, who is on loan from Bordeaux, on the sidelines for the Serbian outfit.
Crvena Zvezda will set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation at Anfield and are likely to play on the counter, utilizing the speed of their attackers. In goal, it will be 31-year-old Milan Borjan, shielded by a back four comprising of Filip Stojkovic and Marko Gobeljic as the full-backs on the right and left sides respectively, with Milos Degenek and Vujadin Savic lining up in the centre.
Nenad Krsticic will start in one of the two pivot positions in the middle of the park and is likely to be paired up with the more defensive-minded 25-year-old midfielder Branko Jovicic. Summer signing Goran Causic will be in charge of the playmaking duties starting in the No.10 role for the Serbian league leaders.
With Marin ruled out, Slavoljub Srnic is set to start on the right flank for Crvena, while summer arrival Veljko Simic will be slotted out on the opposite side. Spearheading the attack for the visitors at Anfield will be Richmond Boakye, who grabbed a double in Zvezda’s 3-1 win over FK Rad this past weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Borjan; Stojkovic, Savic, Degenek, Gobeljic; Krsticic, Jovicic; Srnic, Causic, Simic; Boakye;
- The only previous meetings between Crvena Zvedza and Liverpool were in the last 16 of the 1973-74 European Cup – the Serbian side won both legs by a 2-1 scoreline.
- Crvena Zvezda have won just one of their nine away games against English opposition (D4 L4), though it did come against Liverpool.
- Crvena Zvezda have only won one of their last eight games in major European competitions (excluding qualifiers), drawing four and losing the other three. They have scored just two goals in those eight games.
- Liverpool haven’t lost back-to-back games in the Champions League group stage since November 2014 (three in a row).
- Excluding qualifiers, Liverpool are unbeaten in each of their last 16 home games in major European competitions (W11 D5), scoring 39 goals in that time.
Player to Watch
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Before Saturday’s encounter against Huddersfield Town, the 26-year-old hadn’t found the back of the net in four games on a trot for Liverpool. However, having brought an end to his mini goal drought against the Terriers, Salah will be looking to kick on from here.
Salah, now, has four goals in 12 games across all competitions in the ongoing term, but is yet to score a single goal in the Champions League. The Egyptian superstar was at the forefront of Liverpool’s run to the finals of the Champions League last term, scoring ten goals in the process. And he will need to start delivering again, if Klopp’s men are to repeat their heroics of last season.
Liverpool 3-o Crvena Zvezda
Liverpool ended their four-game winless streak this past weekend, but the performance was far from the level that one has grown to expect from Klopp’s side. While their defence has been in top form of late, the attacking department hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders – Liverpool, in their last five games in all competitions, have scored just thrice.
And the clash against Crvena Zvezda provides them with the perfect opportunity to get back in tune. While they may have managed to hold Napoli to a draw, the Serbian outfit shipped in six goals against PSG last time out and offered very little in terms of attacking threat.
And, as a result, despite Liverpool not being at their best, we at the Hard Tackle expect them to walk away with all the three points with an easy victory on Wednesday night.