Match Preview: FC Basel v Liverpool

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Liverpool turn their attentions back to the Champions League on Wednesday night when they travel to Switzerland to take on Basel in their second game of the competition.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 16, 2014: Liverpool supporters on the Spion Kop make a mosaic of European Cups before the UEFA Champions League Group B match against PFC Ludogorets Razgrad at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

FC Basel v Liverpool
Wednesday, 1st October 2014
Champions League
St. Jakob-Park

 

Brendan Rodgers’ side will be looking to make it back-to-back wins after returning to the top European stage for the first time in five years, positioning themselves nicely ahead of the visit of current holders Real Madrid in the third group match.

As the tight encounter against a highly impressive Ludogorets side showed, the Reds can’t afford to underestimate any opposition in the Champions League, and while Wednesday’s match will certainly be viewed as a great chance to take maximum points from the opening two games, Rodgers’ team will have to produce a strong display against the Swiss champions if they want to make that a reality.

The two sides have previous in the competition, as they were drawn together also in Group B of the first group stage phase in the 2002/03 season.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - WEDNESDAY, MAY 25th, 2005: Liverpool's Vladimir Smicer and Milan Baros celebrate winning the European Cup after beating AC Milan on penalties during the UEFA Champions League Final at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Anfield played host to the first meeting between the two teams’ in a fixture that ended 1-1 and saw former Tottenham manager, Christian Gross name future Red, Philipp Degen among the visitors’ substitutes. Milan Baros handed the Reds the lead in the 34th minute before Julio Rossi equalised two minutes before half time in the stalemate.

An inconsistent first five group games meant the Reds faced the tough challenge of having to beat Basel in Switzerland in order to progress to the next stage. It proved to be an even bigger uphill task than first feared when the home side raced into a 3-0 lead after just 29 minutes.

BASEL, SWITZERLAND - Monday, October 11, 2010: Wales players during a training session ahead of the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying Group G match against Switzerland. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Gerard Houllier’s men regrouped and produced a spirited performance in the second period, with goals from Danny Murphy, Vladimir Smicer and Michael Owen completing a brave comeback, but the Reds just couldn’t find the elusive winning goal meaning Houllier’s side dropped into the UEFA Cup competition.

 

Team News

Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan, Joe Allen and Emre Can are all still absent from Rodgers’ squad with persistent injuries.

The Liverpool boss was hoping he would be able to welcome back Daniel Sturridge to the fold for Wednesday night’s match, but the England international has yet to recover from a thigh strain and therefore hasn’t travelled with the squad to Switzerland.

However, the 25-year-old is hoping that he will be passed fit to make a return to action on Saturday when West Brom arrive at Anfield.

Question marks have risen over the future of Mamadou Sakho on Merseyside after the French centre back stormed out of Anfield upon his exclusion from the squad for the derby with Everton, and he too has been left out of the travelling party, although the Liverpool boss says due to injury.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 23, 2014: Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho in action against Middlesbrough during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Kolo Toure is therefore set to continue on the bench in place of the Frenchman, providing cover to first choice pairing Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren.

 

Opposition

Basel have enjoyed unprecedented success domestically in recent seasons having won the Swiss Super League five times in a row, with current manager Paolo Sousa – formerly of Swansea, QPR and Leicester City  – winning the title in his first campaign as manager last season.

https://twitter.com/DavidTriggs78/status/516977023714328576

But despite dominating nationally, the Swiss side have found the European stage much more difficult with the Last 16 of the Champions League being their furthest progression in the tournament in its current format in season 2011-12 and a quarter-final finish the best they could muster in the old European Cup.

The Reds opponents – who currently sit bottom of the group – head into Wednesday’s clash looking to bounce back to the 5-1 thrashing received by Real Madrid in the first round of games, to ensure breathing space doesn’t appear between themselves and the front runners, and Sousa may have to call on the experience his squad boats in order for that to happen.

The Portuguese coach’s team has some familiar names to the European stage including Swiss international and team captain, Marco Streller, former Inter Milan stalwart Walter Samuel – now 36 years young –  and former Liverpool right back Philipp Degen, who is back at the club for his second spell after returning from Borussia Dortmund.

Liverpool have sold-out their allocation for the clash, with 1,900 Reds set to make the trip hoping for another rewarding European night and the match will be shown live on Sky Sports 2 with kick off from St Jakob-Park coming at 19:45pm.

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