Liverpool will be hoping to book their place in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 when they take on Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday.
The UEFA Champions League is back for the final time in 2019, with the group stage drawing to a close this week. A rather evenly poised Group E will see the top three being finalised when Red Bull Salzburg play hosts to defending champions Liverpool, aiming to spring a surprise and reach the next phase at their expense.
Red Bull Salzburg have been one of the most eye-catching teams in the Champions League this season, producing several bold performances along the way. Currently placed third in a tightly contested Group E, the Austrian giants still have their fate in their own hands ahead of Matchday 6 of the group stage.
For Liverpool, on the other hand, there has been a marked difference between their all conquering ways in the Premier League and their stuttering displays in Europe. The Reds have never really managed to showcase their best qualities on a consistent basis in the defence of their Champions League crown, even though they have managed to reach the top of the Group E standings.
The reverse fixture, played on Matchday 2 at Anfield, was a pulsating affair, as Liverpool withstood a spirited effort by Salzburg to claim a 4-3 win. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Red Bull Salzburg
Jesse Marsch does not have any fresh injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Liverpool. On Tuesday, the Red Bull Salzburg boss will be without four first-team players, with Alexander Walke, Antoine Bernede, Patrick Farkas and Sekou Koita all unavailable
Marsch is expected to line his side up in a 4-4-2 formation, despite successfully experimenting with a variation of the 3-5-2 formation this past weekend in league action. The usual formation will see them take up a shape of 4-2-2-2 in the attacking phase while leaving them with twin blocks of four when off the ball.
Cican Stankovic is a certain starter in goal for Salzburg, with the 27-year-old set to be a busy man against a dangerous Liverpool attack. In front of him, Jerome Onguene will be the man to drop out of the lineup due to the shift in formation, with Maximilian Wober and Andre Ramalho partnering up at the heart of the Red Bull Salzburg defence.
In the absence of Farkas, young defender Rasmus Kristensen becomes an automatic pick as the hosts’ right-back, with captain Andreas Ulmer completing the defensive line. Zlatko Junuzovic and Enock Mwepu will be tasked with keeping things tight in the middle of the park while moving the ball forward at pace and link up with the creative forces of the team.
Prodigious teenager Dominik Szoboszlai will have the onus on him to move Salzburg deep into the Liverpool half, with Japanese winger Takumi Minamino supporting him in behind the strikers. Erling Haaland and Hwang Hee-chan will form the strike partnership, with their pace posing a lot of problems for the vulnerable Liverpool defence.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Stankovic; Kristensen, Ramalho, Wober, Ulmer; Minamino, Junuzovic, Mwepu, Szoboszlai; Hwang, Haaland
Jurgen Klopp had been sweating over the fitness of Dejan Lovren ahead of Liverpool’s tie against Red Bull Salzburg this week. The Croat had picked up a hamstring injury in the Reds’ 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday, but is fit to face Salzburg.
Another piece of good news is that Georginio Wijnaldum has also been given an all clear after recovering from a knock that kept him out of the weekend’s clash. Wijnaldum ought to return to the midfield, while Lovren will retain his place at the heart of the Liverpool defence.
The game, though, has come too soon for Adam Lallana, who is expected to return to full training on Thursday. Like Lallana, Joel Matip remains on the sidelines and will play no part against Red Bull Salzburg.
Lovren will have Virgil van Dijk as his central defensive partner, with Andrew Robertson a certain starter as left-back. On the right flank, Trent Alexander-Arnold will come into the side after being given a bit of a breather at Bournemouth.
Naby Keita was incredibly impressive on his first Premier League start of the season this past weekend and the ex-Red Bull Salzburg midfielder should get another chance to make an impression against his former club. Jordan Henderson will be the third player in the three-man midfield, sitting at the base of the unit.
Another former Red Bull Salzburg star, Sadio Mane will be raring return to his old stomping ground after being rested last time out. Mane will join Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in the final third, with Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri providing backup.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Keita, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
- This will be the second competitive meeting between Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool, following their clash on Matchday 2 in which the Reds won 4-3, despite leading 3-0 after 36 minutes at Anfield.
- Liverpool have won five of their seven games against Austrian sides in all European competition (W5 D1 L1), losing only to Grazer AK in a Champions League qualifier in August 2004.
- Red Bull Salzburg have lost four of their five matches against English opposition in all European competition, conceding at least twice in every match (13 in total). At home, Salzburg drew 2-2 vs Blackburn Rovers in September 2006 (UEFA Cup) and lost 0-2 vs Manchester City in September 2010 (Europa League).
- Liverpool have only won two of their last 11 Champions League away group stage games (D3 L6), losing four of the last five (W1). The Reds last won consecutive away group games in the competition back in September 2008 under Rafa Benitez.
- Since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, the two players with the most UEFA Champions League assists are Liverpool duo Roberto Firmino and James Milner with 11 each to their names.
Player to Watch
Much of the spotlight this season has been on Erling Haaland, who has become one of the hottest properties in Europe. But, Hwang Hee-chan has been just as vital to Red Bull Salzburg’s fluid style of play, with his pace often leaving the opposition defenders flummoxed.
Against a Liverpool side that has struggled for consistency in Europe this term, Hwang will need to produce another top class performance in order to help his side to a shock win over the defending champions. Time for the more unheralded striker to have the spotlight shining on him.
Red Bull Salzburg 2-2 Liverpool
Liverpool might be perched atop Group E, but qualification to the Round of 16 still remains contentious. Standing in their way are Red Bull Salzburg, who need to win in order to book their own place in the knockout stages. The Austrians nearly ran the Reds close in the reverse fixture and will once again be a tough nut to crack.
Expect a keenly contested affair, with both sides going all out for the all-important win. In the end, however, there might not be much to separate Liverpool and Salzburg and The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-2 draw, a result that ensures the Reds’ safe passage through to the next round, but one that does not guarantee top spot in Group E.