2:45pm on espn2
Inter is currently 1st in Serie A
Liverpool: 4-0 Marseille (a); 4-1 Porto (h); 8-0 Besiktas (h); 1-2 Besiktas (a); 0-1 Marseille (h); 1-1 Porto (a)
Inter: 1-0 PSV (a); 3-0 Fenerbahce (h); 4-2 CSKA (h); 2-1 CSKA (a); 2-0 PSV (h); 0-1 Fenerbahce (a)
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-2 Barnsley (h); 0-0 Chelsea (a); 3-0 Sunderland (h)
Inter: 2-0 Livorno (h); 2-0 Catania (a); 1-0 Empoli (h)
Liverpool: Crouch, Gerrard, Kuyt 4; Babel, Benayoun, Torres 3; Hyypia, Voronin 1
Inter: Ibrahamovic 5, Cambiasso, Cruz 2; Crespo, Jimenez, Samuel 1
Referee: Frank De Bleeckere (BEL)
Guess at a squad
Finnan Skrtel Carragher Arbeloa
Pennant Gerrard Mascherano Benayoun
I still can’t decide whether it will be Crouch or Kuyt up top. Kuyt finally broke his goal drought on Saturday and has improved in the last two games, while Crouch is one of Liverpool’s joint top-scorers in Europe, although the last two games he’s started have been nothing to write home about (to put it in the nicest way possible).
There’s also a chance for something like 4-2-3-1, with Gerrard, Benayoun, and Babel (or some similar combination) behind Torres as a lone striker.
That Babel was taken off on Saturday with 20 minutes to go makes me wonder if he’ll see another start on Tuesday, but it was probably more a precautionary measure, as I think he’s still dealing with an ankle knock picked up on international duty.
Also, both Pennant and Benayoun have more experience in Europe; Pennant frequently plays well when Crouch is involved, while Benayoun’s gotten goals from midfield and shown a willingness to get in the box, and has frequently been Liverpool’s best player in matches where his goals have been needed.
I’m hoping that both Skrtel and Arbeloa are fit for this one. According to Benitez there’s no new injury worries and both Torres and Skrtel have recovered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Benitez has enough faith to start them all.
The backline that saw so many clean sheets in Benitez’s first two seasons (Finnan-Carra-Hyypia-Riise) -- the one deployed on Saturday -- has been Liverpool’s shakiest this season. I don’t know whether its age catching up with certain players (although none of those four have ever been reliant on pace) or just a matter of all being off-form at times this season (although Hyypia’s turned back the clock with some of his performances), but it’s been a problem.
However, injuries may force Liverpool’s hand. Plus, if memory serves, Riise’s only missed one Champions League knockout game under Benitez, the home leg against Benfica in 2006.
For Inter, first-string keeper Julio Cesar is suspended, while Dacourt and Samuel are both injured. 11 points clear at the top of Serie A, their lone loss this season came away to Fenerbahce in the first Champions League group game.
It goes without saying that this has become the most important game of the season so far, with rumors flying that Benitez’s job is now (again?) linked to Champions League progress. I’ve no desire to rehash that debate again, but I still believe it's an unfair ask.
But it shows the disappointment that this season’s been. The squad may be better from top to bottom, but results haven’t been. An exit from Europe would mean that the fight for fourth is the only thing left this season. That’s unimaginable.
Quotes from Inter manager Roberto Mancini show that no matter Liverpool’s current struggles, the team is still a feared force in Europe. Liverpool’s come together before to beat more fancied opposition. Believe me, this isn’t counting the chickens before they’re hatched, but a win at Anfield coupled with the business done in Italy could turn the ship around.
We hear so much about Liverpool as a different team in Europe. On current form, they’ll assuredly have to be.