Let me start by saying I’m absolutely not arsed in the slightest in mentioning what happened on Saturday afternoon, we have too many games across so many different competitions coming up to dwell on the past for long. So, moving on… Liverpool officially kick of their Champions League campaign this Wednesday against a team we’ve only ever played once, but who we have a strong recent history with. Again, in keeping with the “Don’t look at the past, oh God don’t look at the past for Christ sake” theme I’ll keep the mention of the 2016 Europa League Final to a minimum. All I will say on the matter is that since then we have only gotten stronger and Sevilla, who didn’t win the Europa League last season for the first time since Moses was on the earth, decided to concentrate on the league for once and, like us, finished 4th. Now I’m not going to act all hipster-ish and pretend I watch/care about La Liga but I feel it’s safe to say we’ve closed the gap between ourselves and Sevilla that was so evident in the second half back in May 2016. This should be an exciting game between two attack minded, but suspect in defence teams.Match Preview
The Reds have been absolutely electric in terms of goal scoring again so far this season and showed against Hoffenheim in the second leg that they were well able to establish dominance early on. In fact, in both play off games there was never any real danger of Liverpool giving the advantage away and remained comfortable throughout. The playoffs were, however, a knockout round and it will be interesting to see if that same intensity will be shown against Sevilla in the league format. On occasion (and our 2014 disaster is a prime example of this) teams can ease up in the group stage and it results in them suffering an early exit from the competition because they didn’t start off well and faced an uphill climb from there on. To get 3 points early on, and against our rivals for top spot would set us up nicely in the group.
Sevilla, much like ourselves tend to be very strong in attack but erratic at the back. Last season los Rojiblancos (of course I Googled that) scored 97 goals in 53 games, which is very similar to Liverpool’s 92 goals in 47 games. However, and this should be the difference maker between the two, Sevilla conceded a whopping 71 goals in 53 games while the Reds only conceded 47 in 47. Those stats alone are enough to tell us we need to be getting at these right from the off. A game like this is the perfect opportunity to introduce Daniel Sturridge early in the second half to add to the direct attacking from the centre and allowing Roberto Firmino to have a freer role up front. Mohammed Salah (should he play) might need to come off if his end product isn’t up to scratch as this is a game that’ll require a lot of shots on target.Liverpool are set to welcome back Philippe Coutinho back from his… injury… at the start of the week it was most likely that the Brazilian would feature as a second half substitute, however with Mohamed Salah being unwell and his place in the squad under threat as a result we may see Coutinho having to start this game. With Sadio Mane banned for 3 games in domestic competition it is likely that this will provide the number 10 with his route back into the starting 11, however now it looks like that full return may come even sooner.
This is a tough game to predict because we really don’t know what to expect from the opposition, actually we don’t know what to expect of Liverpool to a degree either. The Reds have been exemplary against tough opposition at home in Europe since Jurgen Klopp took over and if that trend continues then we should be in for another exciting game. It’s worth mentioning that Sevilla only stuttered past Istanbul Basaksehir 4-3 on aggregate, only drawing 2-2 at home. The general consensus is that Sevilla aren’t as good as the last time we played them, but lets wait until full time to make that judgement.
Early this week Mohamed Salah picked up an illness which caused him to miss training on Tuesday, the forward is due to be in contention for today’s game but it might now be a wiser choice on Jurgen Klopp’s behalf to not start the Egyptian and opt for Coutinho instead. This would see last season’s front 3 of Mane, Coutinho and Firmino reunited after some time apart. With Sadio Mane ineligable for our next 3 domestic games it’s almost a certainty that he’ll start tonight.The midfield trio of Can, Wijnaldum and Henderson looks set to continue into this game. Gini Wijnaldum has looked particularly out of sorts in some games this season and the Dutchman could do with a rest but with Coutinho now possibly deputising for Mo Salah it looks as though he’ll have to power throuh. We’ll surely see James Milner added to the fray around the 60 minute mark, most likely as a replacement for Jordan Henderson as Klopp looks to save the skipper’s legs for the weekend’s game with Burnley.
In defence we’ll see Dejan Lovren return to the lineup after being rested against Man City while Ragnar Klavan will drop to the bench. Joel Matip will partner Lovren with Alberto Moreno likely to continue at left back against his former club. Trent Alexander-Arnold had a rough time of it at the weekend and looked very unsteady so it’s probably best for his own sake that he’s taken out of the firing line for this one. Joe Gomez is set to start at right back in place of Alexander-Arnold.Jurgen Klopp has also confirmed hat Loris Karius will start in goal as it looks like the German keeper will be used mostly in Europe while Simon Mignolet plays in the league, maybe Danny Ward will start in the cups.. who knows?
A quick note on the opposition, from what I’ve managed to learn online..
Several key players from the Europa League final last year have since moved on from Sevilla. Names such as Grzegorz Krychowiak (Who moved to PSG and is now oddly on loan at West Brom) as well as goalscorers Kévin Gameiro and Coke, the captain at the time who netted twice.
The Sevilla defence has been very weak at times and we should look to expose that. Clement Lenglet, a French 22 year old centre back looks set to start alongside new recruit Simon Kjaer, with Gabriel Mercado also expected to be involved.
Ex-Stoke midfielder Steven N’Zonzi has really honed his trade since joining the Spanish outfit and will play a key role with Ever Benega and Brazilian international Ganso, who has scored 2 goals in 3 games so far this season but did not take part in the play-offs.
Former Man City man Jesus Navas is expected to start, while another City alum Nolito is ruled out with a thigh injury. Wissam Ben Yedder has been in good form for Sevilla this season, scoring 3 goals so far this season including 2 in the Champions League play off round and will definitely be the man to mark.
I’m staying positive and I’m going with 3-1 to Liverpool..
Fitting scoreline, isn’t it?