Liverpool are back in Europe as they prepare to face LASK in their first Europa League clash since 2016.
LASK vs. Liverpool
Europa League | Raiffeisen Arena
September 21, 2023 | 5.45pm (BST)
The Reds dropped out of the Premier League‘s top four for the first time in a full Jurgen Klopp season in 2022/23 and are set for their first match in UEFA’s second tier since reaching the 2016 final in Basel.
LASK are up first in Group E having been drawn from pot two and will likely present Liverpool’s toughest test on paper at this stage of the competition.
Here are 10 things you need to know ahead of the Europa League opener.
1. Injury news
Neither were likely to feature on Thursday night, but both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Thiago were absent from training as the squad put the finishing touches to their preparations and subsequently not named in the 23-man travelling squad.
Stefan Bajcetic will be hoping to get his first minutes in a red shirt since March having made a substitute appearance for Spain under-21s during the international break.
2. History beckons for the boss
Three points in Austria would take Klopp up to a milestone of 50 wins in Europe with the Reds.
Should he do it, he would become the first Liverpool manager to reach that tally, overtaking Rafa Benitez who also sits on 49 victories.
3. Opposition insight
LASK qualified for the Europa League by finishing third in the Austrian Bundesliga last season and by beating Zrinjski 3-2 on aggregate in the qualifying round in August.
They faced Man United in the competition back in 2020, where they were knocked out 7-1 on aggregate after the coronavirus pandemic caused the two legs to be separated by five months.
4. A purple kit debut
Liverpool confirmed earlier this week that they will wear their new purple third kit for the first time when they face LASK on Thursday evening.
The Austrian side’s white home kit would cause a clash with Liverpool’s white and green away kit, meaning the Europa League tie represents a good opportunity to give fans a first glimpse of the purple shirt in action.
5. Two first starts?
Doak made five senior appearances from the bench last season and came on in the season opener at Stamford Bridge but is still yet to be picked from the first whistle by the manager.
Should the Scot get onto the pitch, he would become the fourth-youngest player to appear for Liverpool in Europe, behind Phil Charnock, Raheem Sterling and Michael Owen.
Gravenberch opted to remain at the AXA Training Centre to get up to speed in his new surroundings over meeting up with the Netherlands U21s and will be hoping to add to his late substitute appearance against Wolves.
6. All change since Basel
Thursday will be the Reds’ first appearance in the Europa League since reaching the 2016 final against Sevilla.
While the manager remains the same, none of the 18 players who were named in the matchday squad for the final are still at the club.
Joe Gomez, now Liverpool’s longest-serving player, was injured for the showpiece in Switzerland seven years ago.
7. A chance for those on the periphery?
It is difficult to gauge how strong Klopp will choose to set his team up having been out of the competition for so long, but there are plenty of options at his disposal.
As well as that, there will be a number of others who will no doubt be knocking on the manager’s office door this week in a hunt for minutes on Thursday evening.
Though, the manager has been insistent that “we are here to compete, not to give opportunities,” putting doubt on the likes of Doak and Kelleher starting.
8. Opposition danger man
Robert Zulj will be the man to look out for on the other side of the pitch, with the LASK skipper having already recorded five goals and four assists this season.
The attacking midfielder managed 12 goals and four assists in 2022/23 having arrived from Ittihad Kalba the previous summer and looks to be in a rich vein of form heading into this one.
9. Di Bello in the middle
Marco Di Bello will take charge of a Liverpool fixture for the first time in Thursday’s Europa League opener.
The Italian referee will be assisted by Michael Fabbri from the VAR room, a man who has also never officiated a Reds contest.
10. Follow the match with us!
The somewhat unusual kick-off time of 5.45pm (BST) might make life difficult if you were hoping to get home in time to watch the match!
Should you find yourself on the go or in need of a biased take on the action, feel free to join us on the This Is Anfield matchday live blog which you will be able to access on our website shortly before the game gets underway.
The next European journey beckons, up the Reds!