Tonight, Liverpool will take part in a Champions League fixture of the utmost importance. At halftime in the Sevilla game, no-one could’ve dreamed that two weeks later, we’d be faced with a nervy 90 minutes against Spartak Moscow. The maths is simple, a loss by three goals or less will be enough to send the Reds through to the next round, but the aim is, without a doubt, to qualify as group winners. Presuming that Sevilla will ease to victory over Maribor, Liverpool will need to come away with the three points to make top spot secure. Anything less than this and they will face testing questions from both the media and fans alike.
Liverpool Team News
Jurgen Klopp confirmed that both Ragnar Klavan and Joe Gomez will be available to play tonight, following their absences from the starting line up on Saturday, due to illnesses. This comes as particularly good news, as Joel Matip has been ruled out of the remainder of 2017 with an injury to his thigh. Dejan Lovren will be looking for a centre-back partner and I’d expect Gomez will be the most likely to fill that void, leaving room for Trent Alexander-Arnold to start on the right side of defence. Alberto Moreno, who was rested against Brighton, should come back in instead of Andrew Robertson at left-back.
The manager has stated that the Merseyside Derby on Sunday will make no bearing on his selection policy tonight, but he has made several alterations to his starting lineups for the last few games. This is expected to continue in midfield as James Milner is expected to take the captains armband from Jordan Henderson, as the usual skipper looks for a rest during the seasons busiest period. Alongside him, Philippe Coutinho will play a massively key role in keeping the team calm, should the clash get tight toward the end of the game. The Brazilian will be buzzing off the back of his stella performance against Brighton and the fans will be hoping for more of the same here. Emre Can will return to his usual central midfield role tonight as opposed to the centre-back position he took up last time out.
Up front, Mohammed Salah has played just over 1500 minutes of competitive football for Liverpool this season and is due a break. However, the Egyptian will take a spot on the bench, should an injection of firepower be required toward the end of the game. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will likely start as the right-winger, a position he has taken up a few times already, this Champions League campaign. Sadio Mane will start opposite the Englishman, returning from his time on the bench at the weekend. Daniel Sturridge will make a rare start, giving Roberto Firmino a chance to recharge his batteries.
Predicted Lineup: Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Lovren, Moreno; Milner, Can, Coutinho; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sturridge, Mane.
Both teams have been in top rate goal-scoring form, with Liverpool bagging 15 in their last five and Spartak netting 12 times in the same amount of games. While the home side may be fielding a slightly weaker attacking group, their style of free-flowing football is sure to create plenty of chances. Although a tie against Spartak is always deemed tricky, they have given up four points to Maribor this year, the weakest side in the group. Because of this, I don’t see securing qualification as being too difficult for the Reds tonight and making it through as group winners should be fairly routine. How many times has that been said about a Liverpool match, though? All in all, it may be an uncomfortable to start to proceedings, but once Liverpool get a foothold in the contest, a couple of quick goals will surely follow. I expect 3-1 and top spot to be the most likely result of the night.