Liverpool’s Champions League future hangs in the balance ahead of their final group stage match at home to Basel on Tuesday (19:45 GMT, live on ITV1).
The Reds are two points behind Basel in the Group B standings and must win at Anfield if they are to progress to the knockout stages behind group winners Real Madrid. Basel only need a point to go through.
Liverpool’s lacklustre campaign continued with a dull 0-0 draw at home to Sunderland on Saturday. They are in the lower reaches of the top half of the Premier League table, with 21 points from six wins, two draws and six defeats.
Brendan Rodgers’ (pictured) side laboured to break down their well-organised visitors, who had done a similarly impressive defensive job at home to Chelsea a week earlier. The majority of their efforts on goal came from well outside the penalty area and they managed just two shots on target – one from inside the area – during the course of the 90 minutes.
It was certainly not the first time this season that Liverpool have struggled to fire in attack. It was the seventh time in all competitions that they have failed to score and it further reduced their already disappointing goal average in league play. They are scoring an average of around 1.3 less goals per match than they did last season, whilst conceding at a similar rate.
The summer departure of Luis Suarez, the various injuries suffered by Daniel Sturridge and the poor performances of new signing Mario Balotelli have all contributed to this drastic reduction in Liverpool’s attacking potency. They are getting in behind opposition defences far less frequently and Rodgers currently looks short on solutions.
Rodgers will definitely be without the injured Sturridge (thigh/calf), Jon Flanagan (knee) and Suso (groin) against Basel, while Balotelli (groin) and Mamadou Sakho (thigh) are both doubtful.
Basel travel to Anfield on the back of a 3-0 win away to FC Luzern on Saturday. It was their fifth consecutive league victory. The reigning Swiss champions top the Super League table, with 41 points from 13 wins, two draws and three defeats.
Paulo Sousa elected to rest a number of his regular starters for the trip to Lucerne and Basel took a little time to get going against the league’s bottom side. They did, however, eventually emerge victorious thanks to two goals from Matias Delgado and a late third from substitute Breel Embolo. The victory helped the club to their highest pre-Christmas points haul.
Sousa has quickly learned to balance the demands of Basel’s domestic and European commitments. At home, they play swift and incisive attacking football, making the most of the quality advantage they enjoy over the majority of their opponents. After a heavy defeat to Real Madrid on the first match day, they have used a neater, more compact style in Europe.
Shkelzen Gashi is Basel’s top scorer in domestic action, with 11 goals from 15 appearances, but their goals have been more evenly distributed in Europe. Derlis Gonzalez, Marco Streller and the strong, quick and unpredictable youngster Embolo give Sousa plenty of options. At the other end, goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik has been impressive since joining this summer.
Sousa will not be able to call on the injured Ivan Ivanov (knee) for the trip to Merseyside, while Giovanni Sie (knee) is highly doubtful. Serey Die returns after serving a two-match ban in Europe.
Liverpool v Basel Betting Tips
These two sides have met three times in European competition. They shared 1-1 and 3-3 draws during the group stage of the Champions League in the 2002/03 season, with Steven Gerrard involved in both matches. Basel then won 1-0 in Switzerland when the teams squared off earlier in this year’s group stage. Streller scored the winning goal.
Liverpool have shown few signs of improvement since that last meeting between the sides, winning five, drawing three and losing five of their subsequent 13 fixtures. Marginal improvements in defence have been insufficient to offset their reduced goal output. They will have to perform far better than their habitual level this season to get the win they need here.
Basel have an excellent record against Premier League sides, having won each of their last four Champions League matches against English opposition. They were a little unfortunate to go down to a 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid in their last match in this competition and will be confident of getting the point they need to progress at Anfield.
- Back Basel +0.5 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 14/11 with BetVictor.
- Basel are likely to try and keep things tight and take advantage of any desperation that creeps into Liverpool’s game as the match goes on by striking on the break. They have a strong defensive unit and it is therefore highly probable than their tactics will produce a low-scoring match. Back under 2.5 goals @ 11/10 with Paddy Power, BetVictor or Betfair Sportsbook.