2:45pm, live in the US on Setanta
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 2-2 City (h); 2-2 Brum (h); 1-1 Lyon (a)
Debrecen: 2-1 Honved (a); 1-0 Kecskemeti (h); 0-1 Gyor (a)
Liverpool: 1-1 Lyon (a); 1-2 Lyon (h); 0-2 Fiorentina (a); 1-0 Debrecen (h)
Debrecen: 2-5 Fiorentina (a); 3-4 Fiorentina (h); 0-4 Lyon (h); 0-1 Liverpool (a)
Liverpool: Babel, Benayoun, Kuyt 1
Debrecen: Coulibaly, Rudolf 2; Czvitkovics 1
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (NED)
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Skrtel Carragher Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Aurelio
Not only does Liverpool need to win tomorrow, but Lyon has to get a result against Fiorentina at home. A Viola win means Liverpool’s in the Europa League at best. A draw means Liverpool’d need to top Fiorentina by a better margin than they lost the reverse fixture (0-2). And a Lyon win, which every Liverpool fan should be hoping for, means there’ll be all to play for on December 9.
Of course, all this is contingent on Liverpool winning tomorrow. Which the team hasn’t done since beating United a month ago. One win in 10 games is no way to go through life, son. That I spent the opening paragraph of this preview describing another team’s fixture is an apt description of this season. It’s not even December and it’s out of Liverpool’s hands. Sigh.
Given Liverpool’s form, a win is no sure thing, no matter the opposition. Debrecen’s lost all four group games, but scored five in the last two matches against Fiorentina, which isn’t heartening with Liverpool’s recent shenanigans in defense. And without Torres – still suffering with that hernia injury – will Liverpool actually score? Babel, Riera, Kelly, and Voronin also haven’t made the trip, but both Johnson and Agger should be available.
I’m tempted to suggest a line-up similar to the big wins over Burnley and Stoke a few months back – a line-up without two defensive midfielders. Yes, it’s an away match, in a country where Liverpool’s never won (three draws and a loss; last match was 1974), but the temptation to loosen the reins as much as possible persists.
Yet I’ve gone with Aquilani and Mascherano as the central midfielders instead of Lucas/Aquilani (the more attacking version) or Lucas/Masch. Who knows if Aquilani will start; he’s been restricted to two cameo appearances, but we’re getting the point where he has to play. I’d rather he start tomorrow than debut against Everton in the derby, which will be a much tougher match. I’m guessing Mascherano to partner him because of Masch’s defensive talents, given Aquilani’s limited playing time and fitness levels. Just in case. That’s what Masch is there for.
We’ll find out tomorrow how much the horse placenta helped Benayoun and Aurelio. I’m guessing Fabio because Benayoun played more than expected on Saturday and will be needed against Everton as well. If he’s fitter than I suspect, he may start, but I reckon the safer and more likely option is Aurelio. Yes, Aurelio’s ostensibly a defender, but we saw on Saturday how his entrance helped the team in the opposition’s half.
I really hope both Johnson and Agger are fit enough to feature. I’m guessing Gleninho as a last resort – Kelly’s still out and Degen’s not in the CL squad – while I’m less convinced about Agger’s availability. If he just took stitches, he may be able to play with his head wrapped. But if he suffered a concussion as well, there’s little chance of him starting. Skrtel had a hand in both goals Liverpool conceded against City, but the Slovakian didn’t play badly, and should be boosted by his first goal.
The reverse fixture at Anfield demonstrated that this will be no walk in the park. With a far stronger side than should be available tomorrow, Liverpool found it hard to break the Hungarians down, while Coulibaly threatened on the counter. And the Hungarians can attack; Debrecen racked up goals in their two games against Fiorentina, scoring more in those matches than Liverpool has in the entire CL campaign.
They don’t come much more massive than this: one game to keep qualification hopes alive, a game that’s probably worth a few million quid in the greater scheme of things; a few million quid that the owners dearly need. And then there’s the derby on Saturday. But Liverpool’s been backed against the wall in the Champions League before – remember needing three goals in a half to beat Olympiakos? Let’s see what we know this team’s possible of before it’s too late.