Liverpool welcome Paris Saint-Germain to Anfield on Tuesday night, as their 2018/19 Champions League campaign starts with a bang.
Liverpool vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Tuesday, September 18, 2018 – 8.00pm (BST)
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)
After a perfect opening to the Reds’ Premier League season, in which five wins on the bounce have been recorded, it is time for European commitments to take centre stage.
They were agonisingly close to glory in Kyiv back in May, and although defeat to Real Madrid was tough to take, it was still a memorable year in the competition.
The Champions League is made for both Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp, and the manager will be hoping to go one better this time around, sealing glory at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano next May.
It couldn’t be a much more high-profile start to the group stage, with a star-studded PSG outfit making the trip to Merseyside.
The Ligue 1 champions are desperate to win the Champions League for the first time, with huge pressure on new manager Thomas Tuchel to deliver.
This will be a big early test of their credentials.
Liverpool have shown that they are a match for any side in Europe on their day and the Anfield factor can again play a big part on Tuesday evening.
It should be a spectacular occasion between two attack-minded teams; both are expected to get out of a tough-looking Group C, and three points would be a perfect start.
The road to Madrid starts here.
Roberto Firmino is a major doubt for the game, having suffered an abrasion of the eye in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Tottenham.
Klopp has said his influential No.9 “will be fine” moving forward, but he didn’t train with the first-team squad on Monday.
Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana are both unavailable with respective stomach and groin problems, while Dominic Solanke and Divock Origi may miss out after picking up injuries for the U23s.
The manager’s main selection headache will be how he rotates his side, in order to retain a freshness within his group.
Fabinho could make his Liverpool debut at some point during the evening, although a first start for the Brazilian still feels unlikely.
Captain Jordan Henderson is expected to start having been on the substitutes’ bench on Saturday, with either Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner or Naby Keita making way.
Xherdan Shaqiri will be chomping at the bit to earn his first Reds start and he could come in for Firmino, with Daniel Sturridge also an option.
PSG have become one of Europe’s financial powerhouses, with the French giants among the favourites to win the Champions League every season.
They have disappointed in the competition, though, managing to reach the semi-finals just once in their history, back in 1994/95.
Tuchel’s side remain a formidable side, however, and like Liverpool, they have kicked off their league campaign with a 100 per cent record after five games, winning by at least two goals each time.
They are red-hot favourites to lift their sixth Ligue 1 crown in seven seasons.
The trio of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani are arguably the only attacking unit who can match the Reds’ blistering front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Firmino, with pace, skill and goals by the bucket-load.
Neymar remains one of world football’s greatest players, Mbappe has emerged as the most exciting teenager on the planet and Cavani has ruthlessness running through his veins.
They are more than just a world-class attack, however, with Gianluigi Buffon joining from Juventus—he and Marco Verratti are suspended for Tuesday’s game—and the likes of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler and rumoured Reds transfer target Adrien Rabiot all top-class players.
Possible PSG XI vs. Liverpool: Areola, Meunier, T. Silva, Kimpembe, Bernat, Marquinhos, Rabiot, Di Maria, Mbappe, Neymar, Cavani.
Liverpool and PSG have only ever met twice in history, which may surprise a few, given the potential for meetings in European competitions down the years.
Those two games came in a two-legged UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup tie back in the 1996/97 season, with the Reds falling short in their pursuit to reach the final.
A 3-0 defeat at Parc des Princes was a massive blow for Roy Evans and his players, with Leonardo, Benoit Cauet and Jerome Leroy scoring the goals.
The Reds gave it a good go in the second leg, with Robbie Fowler giving them a 1-0 half-time lead and Mark Wright scoring with 11 minutes remaining.
It wasn’t enough, though.
Did You Know?
Mane’s goal in last season’s Champions League final was Liverpool’s 47th in the competition in 2017/18, making it an all-time record.
Can they surpass their own tally this time around?
Speaking in his pre-match press conference at Anfield, Klopp praised PSG and says he expects them to challenge for glory this season:
“Paris is one of the favourites for the competition, for sure. This team is built for winning the Champions League.
“They have unbelievable quality.
“We don’t need to be favourites or outsiders to win a game, we only want to win it. We play at Anfield, and that can be an advantage, but we need any help we can get for sure.
“Thomas Tuchel is an outstanding coach, it was a smart decision by PSG to appoint him. That makes them quite a big challenge for us.”
TV & Live Blog Info
The match is on BT Sport 2, with coverage starting at 7pm (BST). Kickoff is at the new Champions League time of 8pm (other matches will be kicking off at 5.55pm this season).
Ben Twelves is in charge of our matchday live blog from 7:15pm, with a stream of interesting content before the game and minute-by-minute updates during it.