2:45pm on espn2
Marseille is currently 13th in Ligue 1
Liverpool: 4-1 Porto (h); 8-0 Besiktas (h); 1-2 Besiktas (a); 0-1 Marseille (h); 1-1 Porto (a)
Marseille: 1-2 Besiktas (a); 1-2 Porto (a); 1-1 Porto (h); 1-0 Liverpool (a); 2-0 Besiktas (h)
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-3 Reading (a); 4-0 Bolton (h); 4-1 Porto (h)
Marseille: 2-0 Monaco (h); 1-1 Lille (a); 3-1 Metz (h)
Liverpool: Crouch 4; Benayoun, Gerrard, Kuyt 3; Babel, Torres 2; Hyypia, Voronin 1
Marseille: Niang 2; Cisse, Rodriguez, Taiwo, Valbuena 1
Referee: Terje Hauge (NOR)
Marseille’s probable team, according to Reuters:
30-Steve Mandanda; 3-Taye Taiwo, 4-Julien Rodriguez, 32-Gael Givet, 24-Laurent Bonnart; 28-Mathieu Valbuena, 19-Lorik Cana (capt), 7-Benoit Cheyrou, 6-Karim Ziani, 10-Boudewijn Zenden; 11-Mamadou Niang.
Of course, Reuters’s probable team for Livepool has Babel and Kewell on the flanks, and Riise at left back, so fair warning. Samir Nasri, Marseille’s main figure, is in the squad, but having just returned from a lengthy injury, is doubtful to play according to Erik Gerets. But, being a Liverpool fan and knowing the mind games managers play with team selection, Nasri’s exclusion is nowhere near certain.
Guess at a squad
Finnan Carragher Hyypia Arbeloa
Benayoun Gerrard Mascherano Babel
Not much of a preview is needed for this one.
With Agger and Alonso out, it’s arguable that this is Liverpool’s strongest XI. The only differences I contemplated were Kewell for Babel (I’ll still argue that Babel is better served coming off the bench, but he didn't feature at all on Saturday) and Voronin for Kuyt, as Voro’s done well in previous European games.
Of course, that means this probably won’t be the team, but I can’t see that many changes even if it’s not. Other than Babel and Voronin, Lucas and Riise are probably in contention, but I don’t see room in the starting line-up for say, Crouch or Sissoko, both of whom played 90 minutes on Saturday. We certainly won’t see a line-up like the one against Marseille at Anfield.
Marseille, despite their league position, won’t be pushovers. They’ll have the crowd behind them from the off knowing qualification for the knockout stages could be achieved (Marseille hasn't qualified for the knockout rounds in over 10 years) and are unbeaten domestically since October 30th, having won 3 out of the last 4 games. They haven’t been beaten at home since September 15th, before Erik Gerets was hired as manager.
But we also know how Liverpool can respond when backs are against the wall, especially in cup competition. Olympiakos, Istanbul, Luton, the FA Cup final, Chelsea in both the CL and FA Cup. Even the results in the last two Champions League games, where the team knew a loss would mean an exit from the competition.
And I don’t put much stock in Saturday’s result. A below-par league performance and away loss was always coming, and it’s a credit to the team and staff it took until December 8th to occur. It will be a different team that turns out on Tuesday, with much different motivation.
There’s little point reiterating all that surrounding this match: progression into the knockout stages and CL revenue, morale going into the match against United, and Benitez vis-à-vis the owners. This is a crucial time for the club, both for the rest of the season and the long-term. You know it, and more importantly, the players know it.
I will be on pins and needles for the next 24 hours.