Reds “deserve” love – 10 key things to know ahead of Liverpool vs. Union SG

After a week of refereeing talk, focus is now back on the football as Liverpool host Union SG in the Europa League.

Liverpool vs. Royale Union Saint-Gilloise

Europa League Group E (2) | Anfield
October 5, 2023 | 8pm (BST)

There has understandably been a lack of focus on this fixture so far this week but, now it’s here, we’re giving it all the attention it deserves.

After a hard-fought three points in Austria, Liverpool will be hoping to take another step closer to qualification from Europa League Group E.

A win at Anfield would see Liverpool well on their way to a first-placed finish but, in their way, are an in-form Union SG side.

Here are all the key points to know ahead of the Europa League fixture:


Injury news

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 27, 2023: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo celebrates after scoring the first equalising goal during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jurgen Klopp didn’t give much away when it came to selection in his press conference, but he did give a firm “unavailable” when asked about Cody Gakpo‘s fitness.

Elsewhere, after coming off the bench against Tottenham, Trent Alexander-Arnold has been training so should play a part. He also did the pre-match press conference which would suggest he will be involved.

The major doubt is Stefan Bajcetic, with whom Klopp has previously said: “We have to be really careful.”

Conor Bradley, Thiago and he didn’t take part in full team training on Wednesday, ahead of the match.


Back under the lights

It is Liverpool’s first European game of the season at Anfield and, though we won’t have the Champions League anthem, there will still be a feeling of occasion on Merseyside.

Klopp insists he “didn’t miss the anthem” and that Liverpool are in the competition “to compete, not give opportunities.”

In reality, as seen vs. LASK, Liverpool can both give opportunities and compete, but those that take to the pitch can have no complacency with each of the opposition teams enthused to test themselves against the Reds.


Liverpool predicted XI

It’s a difficult one to predict as there are any of four players who could start at right-back.

With Darwin Nunez potentially not being risked, we’ve gone for Curtis Jones on the left with Joe Gomez staying at right-back.

Meanwhile, Wataru Endo, Harvey Elliott and Ryan Gravenberch play midfield and Ben Doak starts alongside Diogo Jota in attack.

After a strong performacnce vs. Leicester, Jarell Quansah should regain his spot in defence alongside Ibrahima Konate, with Kostas Tsimikas at left-back.

Predicted XI vs. Union SG: Kelleher; Gomez, Konate, Quansah, Tsimikas; Endo, Elliott, Gravenberch; Doak, Jota, Jones


First-ever meeting and an all-red strip

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 30, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp gestures to the travelling supporters after the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Tottenham won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The meeting at Anfield will be the first time that Liverpool and Union SG have ever played each other.

It’s not the first time that the Reds have played a Belgian team, though. 15 times Liverpool have encountered a team from the European nation and one meeting provided a historic moment.

It was in 1964, against Anderlecht at Anfield, when Liverpool wore an all-red kit for the first time. Bill Shankly‘s team won 3-0 and never looked back after!


An in-form opposition

Union SG come into the fixture in good form.

Having moved top of the Belgian Pro League at the weekend, with a 3-1 win over strugglers Charleroi, the group declared they can now “think and talk about Liverpool, an absolute highlight game.”

In their first game of the group, Union SG were held to a 1-1 home draw by Toulouse. While it was far from a disaster, winning at least two of your home games is generally a requirement to progress.

It puts extra pressure on them coming to Anfield, where they will be putting in the performance of their career, if possible.


Players ‘deserve a special atmosphere’

While Anfield isn’t going to be bouncing like Barcelona at home, Liverpool supporters should be fired up for this one and eager to show their love for the team.

Klopp said: “It’s a completely different game tomorrow night, I think our people show the love they deserve and create a really special atmosphere.

“So, I’m really looking forward to a European night at Anfield.”


A family reunion

Two players who could be on the pitch are Alexis Mac Allister and Kevin Mac Allister, yes you read that right.

The pair are brothers and could play against each other on Thursday night in what would be an emotional occasion for the family.

The brothers’ father, Carlos, told Het Nieuwsblad: “Will I shed a tear when they walk onto the field together? I hope not, but that is quite possible.”

Whether Alexis actually plays is up for debate. After a busy few weeks including international football, he is unlikely to start but could come on as a subsitute.

What a moment it would be for the Mac Allister clan!


A look at the numbers

LINZ, AUSTRIA - Thursday, September 21, 2023: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) celebrates with team-mate Luis Díaz after scoring the third goal during the UEFA Europa League Group E matchday 1 game between LASK and Liverpool FC at the Raiffeisen Arena. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool have won 12 of their last 13 group games in European competition, dating back to 2021.

On the theme of officiating, Liverpool have received four red cards in their last eight games, having taken 261 matches to receive the four prior to that.

Mo Salah might not start at Anfield, but he has made five substitute appearances for Liverpool in European competition and has scored five times in those games.

Astonishingly, this means he is averaging a goal as a sub every 13 and a half minutes.

Should Ben Doak score he would become only the second 17-year-old after Michael Owen (17 years and 276 days in 1997) to score for Liverpool in Europe. Doak would be 17 years and 328 days old.


Who is the referee?

The man in the middle will be Morten Krogh Hansen from Denmark, while the lead VAR is Roi Reinshreiber.

We’re sure they will have seen the fallout from Saturday’s match so should be on full alert for this one.

Hansen’s assistants are also Danish, Dennis Rene Wollenberg Rasmussen and Steffen Beck Bramsen, as is fourth official Mikkel Redder.


10. Follow the match with TIA

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, March 13, 2012: One of the lights goes out on the Liverpool FC crest above the Spion Kop during the Premiership match against Everton at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool vs. Union SG is live on TNT Sports 1 with kickoff at 8pm (BST).

TIA’s matchday live blog will be up and running from 7.15pm, with Adam Beattie tasked with keeping you entertained and up-to-date.

Come on you Reds!