2:45pm on espn2
Besiktas is currently 4th in the Turkish Super League. They beat Sheriff Tiraspol in the 2nd qualifying round and FC Zurich in the 3rd qualifying round to reach the group stage.
Liverpool: 1-2 Besiktas (a); 0-1 Marseille (h); 1-1 Porto (a)
Besiktas: 2-1 Liverpool (h); 0-1 Porto (h); 0-2 Marseille (a)
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Blackburn (a); 2-1 Cardiff (h); 1-1 Arsenal (h)
Besiktas: 1-2 Fenerbahce (a); 0-0 Buyuksehir BSK (h); 2-1 Liverpool (h)
Liverpool: Kuyt 3; Crouch, Gerrard, Hyypia, Voronin 1
Besiktas: Bobo, Delgado 3; Koray Avci, Toraman 1
Referee: Markus Merk (GER)
Guess at a squad
Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Aurelio
Gerrard Sissoko Mascherano Kewell
After seeing the formation deployed in the last two league games, I'm wondering if the 4-2-3-1 is here to stay. I think it might be in the league, especially when Torres returns, but I think the team will line up in the familiar 4-4-2 tomorrow. Liverpool will need to as many men forward as possible and take the game to Besiktas, who will undoubtedly play with 10 men behind the ball.
Surprisingly, the media’s reporting that Torres is in the squad, but I find it very hard to believe he'll play any part. We saw what happened when he was rushed back against Arsenal; after Saturday's game against Fulham is a two-week international break, and I almost hope Torres won't return until after that. Plus, if he doesn't feature for Liverpool, it's far easier to tell Spain he's unavailable for their games.
Guessing Crouch and Voronin to start up top isn't a reaction to Kuyt's performance on Saturday. Those two strikers have scored in Europe, and I think both will be able to take advantage of Besiktas tomorrow, despite Liverpool's recurring problems in front of goal.
The main reason for Crouch's inclusion is that Besiktas will be missing their best aerial defender, Gokhan Zan, through injury. I know we've only seen Crouch and Voronin paired in the games at Toulouse and against Portsmouth, and while neither striker covered themselves in glory in either game, I still think the pairing has potential. Plus, both Kuyt and Babel would be available off the bench if necessary. Although I'm well aware that this is the 4th preview in a row I've picked Crouch to start (and it hasn't happened yet).
If Liverpool does play in a 4-4-2, I expect to see Gerrard on the right, with Mascherano paired with either Sissoko or Lucas in the center (I'm guessing Sissoko solely on experience). Gerrard's looked far better in the free role in the last two league matches, and he’s played in a similar manner when on the right. Especially if Kewell starts on the left, evidenced by the 23 goals Gerrard tallied in 05/06 when Kewell was healthy and the two were the usual starters on the flanks.
Kewell looked handy in his 25 minutes against Blackburn, and I'm interested to see if he can do it from the start. I truly don't think it's too soon for him to play more than 60 minutes at a minimum; he's looked fit and raring to go in his two substitute appearances and should be healthy enough to play more than an hour, as he's been involved in training for a couple of weeks now.
As Arbeloa was held out against Blackburn last weekend, I would imagine he'll start tomorrow, and hopefully, Aurelio will be on the opposite flank. We saw against Arsenal last year that when both play, both support the attack from defense very well. Plus, Aurelio is one of the best crossers in the team, and if Crouch does start, I'd hope Fabio is there to whip them in from the left. Also, Arbeloa's quicker than Finnan, which could be necessary if Gerrard does play on the right, as he can be drawn out of position if playing in a freer role, and Liverpool has to be wary of Besiktas (especially Bobo) on the counter.
I'll be blunt. Failure to win tomorrow means Liverpool will not qualify for the knockout rounds. Even with a win, Liverpool will still need help from the Marseille/Porto game, but first things first.
The team will want revenge for the loss in Turkey. They'll know they need to win the next three Champions League games to even have a shot at progressing. And playing at Anfield will be far different than playing in Istanbul; the Besiktas fans were assuredly a big help in the last match.
We've heard enough platitudes since the 2-1 loss. Let's just see the improvement in Liverpool's European performances.