Liverpool will travel to Serbia this week, as they gear up to take on Crvena Zvezda in their fourth Group C encounter of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.
Liverpool have a great chance to extend their lead at the top of Group C, when they take on Serbian heavyweights Crvena Zvezda at the Rajko Mitic Stadium on Tuesday night.
The two teams clashed last month at Anfield, when Liverpool came out on top beating their opponents 4-0. The win catapulted them to the top of Group C, with six points from three games, while the Serbians remained rooted to the bottom of the group. With Napoli and PSG set to meet in Italy later on Tuesday, the match offers the Reds a great opportunity to stretch their lead.
Liverpool come into the midweek game on the back of a highly entertaining 1-1 draw against Arsenal in the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp’s men haven’t always been at their scintillating best this season, but have been putting away teams effectively and will be hoping to do so once again on Tuesday night.
Crvena Zvezda, on the other hand, have won all of their three fixtures post the battering they received at the hands of Liverpool. Currently sitting on top of the Serbian SuperLiga table, Vladen Milojevic’s men will be hoping to cause an upset on the continental stages in front of a vociferous home crowd this week.
Team News & Tactics
The big news coming out of the Zvezda camp is that star attacker Marko Marin is fit again and will be involved, after having missed the return fixture. Along with the former Chelsea man, the Serbian league leaders will also be boosted by the return of Milan Rodic and Vujadin Savic. However, striker Richmond Boakye is likely to miss out.
No major tactical changes are expected from Milojevic, who will continue to set his team out in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The Serbians are likely to start aggressively and hope to catch Liverpool off guard early in the game.
Milan Borjan is expected to continue between the sticks for the Red-Whites and will be offered protection by a back four comprising of Filip Stojkovic and Rodic as the full-backs with Milos Degenek and Savic in the heart of the defence.
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.
Marin will slot in on the right flank and look to offer the penetration in the final third, while summer arrival Veljko Simic will look to do the same from the opposite side. Zvezda’s top scorer for the season, El Fardou Ben is expected to spearhead the attack.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Borjan; Stojkovic, Savic, Degenek, Rodic; Krsticic, Jovicic; Marin, Causic, Simic; El Fardou;
Liverpool boss Klopp has decided to leave Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri back at home, to avoid any distractions, given his Albanian descent. Club captain Jordan Henderson continues to be sidelined for the Merseyside outfit, while Nathaniel Clyne also misses out due to illness.
There is good news, however, with summer signing Naby Keita fit and back in contention for selection, while centre-back Dejan Lovren is also back in the team after missing the weekend game with an injury. Alex Oxlade-Chamerblain remains a long-term absentee.
Alisson Becker will keep his place between the sticks for the Reds, while no changes are expected in the back four either, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson all likely to feature from the get go.
Summer signing Fabinho, who was slated by the fans after a rather dull display against Arsenal, is in line for his fourth consecutive start on Tuesday night. He will be partnered up by the dynamic duo of Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner, both of whom have been two of Liverpool’s most consistent performers this season.
Mohamed Salah grabbed a double last time the two teams met and will be looking to repeat his heroics starting out on the right side of attack, while Sadio Mane will look to cause problems from the left flank. Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino will start through the middle, ahead of Daniel Sturridge.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane;
- This will be Liverpool’s first away game against Crvena Zvezda in European competitions since October 1973, when they lost 2-1 in the first leg of a last-16 tie in the European Cup.
- The Serbian outfit are without a win in their past five games in European competition (D3 L2), conceding 10 goals in losing the past two (1-6 v Paris St-Germain and 0-4 v Liverpool).
- Liverpool have lost one of their past 11 Champions League group-stage games (W5 D5), scoring 33 goals during this run (an average of three per game).
- The Reds have scored 48 goals in the Champions League since the start of last season (16 games), the most of any team in the competition during that time.
- Crvena Zvezda have conceded just five goals in their past 14 home games in European competition, keeping nine clean sheets in this run.
Player to Watch
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
The Senegalese speedster is Liverpool’s joint top goal-scorer this season along with Mohamed Salah, with 7 goals in 14 matches so far, only one of which has come in the European competition – against Crvena Zvezda last month. Mane did not have the best of the games against Arsenal this past weekend and will be looking to make amends when he takes the pitch on Tuesday night.
The 26-year-old has scored 11 goals in his past 12 appearances for the Merseyside outfit in the Champions League and will pose a serious threat to home team with his pace and power from the left flank. If he gets going, Crvena Zvezda will have a hard time stopping the former Southampton man.
Crvena Zvezda 1-3 Liverpool
Liverpool disposed off Crvena Zvezda with much ease last time out at Anfield. Sitting at the top of their group, a win on Tuesday night would be a huge step towards qualification to the next round for Klopp’s brigade, especially considering that they will be facing Napoli and PSG in their next fixtures.
Crvena Zvezda have let in ten goals in their three games in Europe this season, while finding the back of the net only once. Milojevic’s men had managed to hold Napoli to a goalless draw at home, but saw PSG hit them for six not very long after.
The Serbians will be driven by a home support that will be out in full force on Tuesday and they will be taking confidence from the fact that Liverpool have lost their previous three Champions League encounters on the road. However, the Reds have too much quality in their ranks and should have no problems in bagging another victory and strengthen their position at the top of Group C.