Champions League football return to Anfield for the first time since Liverpool got knocked out in the group stages back in 2014/15. After coming through the qualifying stages and easing past Hoffenheim 6-3 on aggregate, Liverpool will tonight face Sevilla, arguably their biggest competitors in Group E. The last time these two sides met was in the 2016 Europa League Final. Despite being 1-0 up at half time, the Reds ultimately lost the encounter 3-1, due to them putting in a very poor second half performance. The home side will be hoping for a much better showing this time around and taking three points from the opening fixture will set them up very nicely for the rest of the group stage. Elsewhere, Spartak Moscow will travel to Slovenia to take on Maribor.
Liverpool Team News
It is expected that Loris Karius will don the gloves and take his place as the number one goalkeeper for Liverpool’s European campaign. Despite conceding five goals away to Manchester City at the weekend, Simon Mignolet was arguably one of the better players on the day and couldn’t be held solely responsible for any of the goals. However, it is believed that Jurgen Klopp will be looking to implement a rotation system for his goalkeepers this season, a potentially risky strategy. It is well known that Liverpool’s weakest asset is by far their back five and not running through the season with a consistently settled goalkeeper could be disastrous. If Danny Ward starts against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup, this tactic could appear to be even more ridiculous.
The back four were so bad on Saturday that fans were calling for Dejan Lovren to be brought on, something that has probably never happened before. I can see Lovren starting this match but it’s quite hard to pick his partner in the centre of defence, as both Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan appeared to be missing for most of the game at the Etihad. Andy Robertson wasn’t even in the matchday squad, so that suggests that Klopp is investing in Alberto Moreno as his long term left-back. The Spaniard will be facing off against his former club for the first time since the Europa League Final. Moreno was blamed endlessly for the equalising goal and faced further criticism for the rest of his performance that evening. Over on the right, we should see Joe Gomez come back into the side after Trent Alexander-Arnold put in arguably one of the worst displays of his career against Manchester City.
With Adam Lallana still unavailable through injury, Liverpool should field an unchanged midfield three of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and Emre Can. With fixtures becoming a bit more congested over the next couple of weeks, we could see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain make his first start for the club, but I doubt it will come in such a big fixture.
Sadio Mane will be available tonight as his suspension doesn’t apply in the Champions League. Klopp will want to get as much use out of him as possible in Europe, while he is absent from Premier League fixtures. Mohamed Salah is a surprise doubt after being sent home from training yesterday with an illness. The club insist it was purely precautionary but it could lead Salah to miss out tonight. If the Egyptian is out of contention, his replacement could be Philippe Coutinho. Klopp said that he was excited to use the Brazilian again and he is expected to be fit this evening. I’m going to remain sceptical and I’ll guess that Roberto Firmino will move over to the wing, with Daniel Sturridge starting in the striker position.
Predicted Lineup: Karius; Moreno, Matip, Lovren, Gomez; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Can; Firmino, Sturridge, Mane.
Sevilla Team News
Sevilla come into the encounter having made a decent start to the La Liga season. They sit in third, with seven points from three matches. They haven’t blown the league away with their goal scoring ability as they’ve netted just five times this season, with three of them coming this weekend against Eibar. Sevilla scraped through the qualifying stages as they beat Turkish outfit, İstanbul Başakşehir 4-3 on aggregate.
Former Manchester City winger, Nolito joined Sevilla this summer for around about £8million. However, the Spaniard will be unavailable tonight due to an injury on his thigh, that he suffered during the Eibar match. He managed to stay on the pitch long enough to pick up the third goal in injury time, but following a scan he will not be travelling to Liverpool. Another ex-Manchester City player, Jesus Navas is likely to start on the right of midfield.
Johannes Geis is a central defensive midfielder who is currently on loan from Schalke. He will miss out through injury as he only managing three minutes off the bench against Eibar. Instead, Steven N’Zonzi will resume his place in the heart of Sevilla’s line-up. N’Zonzi has enjoyed a successful and consistent career in Spain, after he joined from Stoke City in 2015. Sevilla will have the luxury of bringing back a few key players for the midweek matchup, all of whom were rested at the weekend. Simon Kjaer and Ever Banega are expected to return to the starting line-up, while David Soria and Nico Pareja are both doubtful to play, but are still travelling. The visitors will likely play in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Wissam Ben Yedder as the lone striker.
Predicted Lineup: Rico; Escudero, Lenglet, Kjaer, Mercado; N’Zonzi; Sarabia, Banega, Ganso, Navas; Ben Yedder.
Although Sevilla come into the game with a much better weekend performance, they have never won during their previous five trips to England. On the other side, Liverpool has been gripped by Champions League fever once again and they will be incredibly motivated to bounce back from their 5-0 thrashing on Saturday. Home advantage should help massively and my prediction is a reverse of the last score line, with Liverpool running out as 3-1 winners and Mane, Sturridge and Can to get the goals.