Liverpool will be looking for their second win of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League when they clash against Belgian outfit Genk this week.
Matchday three of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is underway and current trophy holders Liverpool will be travelling to Belgium to face off against KRC Genk for a Group E contest at the Luminus Arena on Wednesday night.
Genk have collected just a solitary point from their two Champions League clashes, which puts them at the bottom of Group E. The Belgian outfit were thrashed 6-2 by RB Salzburg in their first fixture, following which they showed good fight to hold Napoli to a goalless draw at home. Having lost to Standard Liege in the league this past weekend, Genk will be hoping to bounce back strongly.
Liverpool did not begin the defence of their Champions League trophy in the most auspicious way, getting beaten by group leaders Napoli, but, managed to beat RB Salzburg in their second game. Having seen their perfect start to the Premier League season come to an end at the hands of Manchester United this past weekend, Jurgen Klopp’s men will be keen on returning to winning ways on Wednedsday.
In what will be the first ever meeting between Genk and Liverpool, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams ahead of this Group E clash.
Team News & Tactics
Manager Felice Mazzu has just two players unavailable for selection with goalkeeper Danny Vukovic and full-back Neto Borges ruled out with injuries. There are likely to be one or two changes to the team that was defeated by Standard Liege at the weekend.
20-year-old goalkeeper Gaetan Coucke will continue between the posts and is likely to be in for a busy night against a dangerous Liverpool attack. There could be one change in defence with Sebastien Dewaest likely to make for Carlos Cuesta, who will partner Jhon Lucumi. Joakim Maehle and Jere Uronen shall take up the full-back slots on the right and left sides respectively.
Talented young midfielder Sander Berge is a certainty to occupy one of the two pivot positions in the middle of the park against Liverpool. There is likely to be a change in partners for the 21-year-old though, with Patrik Hrosovsky in line to replace Bryan Heynen, who started at the weekend.
The playmaking responsibilties will fall on the shoulders of 21-year-old Ianis Hagi, son of the legendary Gheorghe Hagi. Flanking him on either side should be Japanese winger Junya Ito and summer signing Theo Bongonda. Spearheading the attack for Genk at the Luminus Arena will be leading scorer Mbwana Samatta.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Coucke; Maehle, Lucumi, Cuesta, Uronen; Berge, Hrosovsky; Ito, Hagi, Bongonda; Samatta
Liverpool have been dealt a double defensive blow heading into the contest as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip have not travelled to Belgium with the squad owing to illness and knee injury respectively. Xherdan Shaqiri and Nathaniel Clyne remain sidelined as well, but there is good news with Mohamed Salah back in the reckoning after missing the Manchester United clash.
Alisson Becker made his return from injury against United at the weekend and should make his first Champions League appearance of the season against Genk. There will be two forced alterations in front of him though, with Joe Gomez likely to come in at right-back and Dejan Lovren at centre-back. Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson are guaranteed starters for Liverpool.
Jordan Henderson endured a poor outing against Manchester United and could be left out, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain expected to take his place in the middle. James Milner should also get a look-in on Wednesday, starting in place of Gini Wijnaldum, while Fabinho continues in the holding midfield role. Weekend hero Adam Lallana will have to suffice with a role on the bench again.
Roberto Firmino will continue to operate in a central role for Klopp’s team, while Sadio Mane is a certainty to feature in attack as well. The big question though is whether Klopp opts to start Salah, especially with an important match against Tottenham coming at the weekend. But, the Egyptian looked at ease in training on Tuesday and should reclaim his spot in the Liverpool attack.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Gomez, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane
- This will be the first ever meeting between Genk and Liverpool in any competition. Genk’s only previous meetings with English opponents in European competition was in the 2011-12 Champions League group stage against Chelsea. The Belgians drew 1-1 at home and lost 5-0 at Stamford Bridge.
- Liverpool have won all five of their European Cup/Champions League matches against Belgian teams, keeping five clean sheets in those games.
- Should Genk fail to defeat Liverpool, they will set a record for games played in the European Cup/Champions League without winning – they have currently played 14 (W0 D8 L6), level with Floriana FC and Shamrock Rovers.
- Liverpool have won only one of their last 10 away UEFA Champions League group stage matches (W1 D3 L6), losing each of the last four in a row.
- Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s away win percentage in the UEFA Champions League is 35.5% (11 wins in 31 games), exactly half of his win percentage in home matches (71%, 22 wins in 31).
Player to Watch
More often than not, it is the likes of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane or Virgil van Dijk that take the limelight for Liverpool, but there is no denying the importance of Roberto Firmino for Jurgen Klopp’s side. The 28-year-old has scored thrice and set up seven more in 13 appearances this term.
The Brazilian international was Liverpool’s top player in their win against RB Salzburg and has, on many occasions, been the spark that has helped the Reds turn things around when things have seemed difficult. Firmino is the only player since the start of the 2017-18 season to have both scored and assisted 10 UEFA Champions League goals (14 goals, 10 assists).
However, he has been directly involved in just one of his last seven away games in Europe’s premiere competition. That is something that Firmino will be looking to change, when he takes the field against Genk on Wednesday night.
Genk 0-3 Liverpool
Genk have had a difficult start to the 2019-20 campaign, having lost four of their ten league matches and not won a single game in Europe so far. While they did do well to hold Napoli to a draw last time out, Liverpool will be a different cup of tea.
True that Liverpool have looked vulnerable in Europe and have conceded more than they have scored this term. And their 100% record in the Premier League also came to an end this past weekend. But, their overall quality, which will be further boosted by the return of Mo Salah, should be no match for Genk. And hence, we are predicting a comfortable 3-0 win for Jurgen Klopp & co.