We’ve reached the halfway point of the Champions League group stages and Liverpool find themselves sitting unbeaten at the top of Group E. This was aided massively by the 7-0 win away to Maribor, as they are ahead of Spartak Moscow on goal difference and Sevilla by just a single point. This means another high scoring win is needed to strengthen the chances of qualification. Liverpool should be full of confidence after the 3-0 win over Huddersfield at the weekend and will be looking to continue their dominant home record tonight.
Liverpool Team News
Loris Karius would’ve been surprised in Maribor, because it actually ended up being his busiest night in the competition so far. Making a total of two saves and clearing balls on a few occasions, he looked confident throughout and will be very happy with a clean sheet, no matter the opposition. Another straightforward night is expected here, but he will again need to make sure that he is switched on and vigilant throughout.
Jurgen Klopp may use this fixture to get in some squad rotation and rest key players. Andy Robertson is definitely due a start, considering he hasn’t pulled on a Liverpool shirt since the EFL Cup loss to Leicester. Dejan Lovren was pulled from the starting lineup at the weekend and may not want to be risked in such a seemingly simple fixture. This could leave a door open for Ragnar Klavan to start his second game in a row. We’d expect Joel Matip to start alongside him, but the centre-back could be in need of a rest, in which case Joe Gomez, who is now back from European suspension, will look to fill in. On the ride side of defence, Trent Alexander-Arnold should start in the Champions League once again, following on from his stoppage time goal in Slovenia.
James Milner put in a man of the match performance on Saturday and has probably done enough to earn himself another start tonight. The veteran Englishman has proved himself to still be useful at the highest level and should take the armband, like he did in the return leg, in order to give club captain, Jordan Henderson another rest. Emre Can, who only featured for 16 minutes against Huddersfield will be itching to get back into first team action in such a routine clash. The final midfield spot will be fought over by Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who netted his first Liverpool goal during the 7-0 whitewash. I expect the Ox to just edge out the Dutchman here.
I expect the same front three from the weekend, as Philippe Coutinho is still a doubt as he struggled back from an abductor injury. Similarly, to Lovren, the Brazilian will probably be happy to sit this one out risk-free. Daniel Sturridge should replace him as the lead striker, with Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah flanking him on either side. Both Firmino and Salah have scuppered penalty chances this season so, should any spot kicks be awarded this evening, I wouldn’t surprise to see them hand over the honours to James Milner, who was seven from eight during 2016/17.
Predicted Lineup: Karius; Robertson, Klavan, Matip, Alexander-Arnold; Can, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Firmino, Sturridge, Salah.
Maribor Teams News
Maribor have had a decent time of it since the 7-0 drubbing, winning both of their league games by a goal to nil. As a result, they still sit very comfortably in second place in the Slovenian League, seven goals off top spot.
There is expected to be no changes to the starting lineup from their last Champions League match. Luka Zahovic is still absent with a foot injury so will not be considered for selection. Defender, Denis Sme continues to be side-lined with a long-term injury and having played just a single league game this season, it is unclear when he will be back in action again.
Predicted Lineup: Handanovic; Viler, Suler, Rajcevic, Milec; Vrhovec, Kabha; Bohar, Ahmedi, Kramaric; Tavares
Liverpool will almost definitely run away with this one and their fans will be expecting a similarly rampant performance to what they saw in Slovenia. It’s quite hard to say explicitly that the score line will read the same, so I’ll predict a 4-0 victory for the Reds, but we’ll all be disappointed if it isn’t more. This is an incredible opportunity to get a strong hold on the group.