17 October 2006

Liverpool v Bordeaux 10.18.2006

2:45pm. Available in the US on Setanta Sports.

Liverpool has never met Bordeaux before in European competition. Bordeaux currently sit 5th in the French Ligue 1, behind Lyon, Marseilles, AS Nancy, and Toulouse.

Champions League Group Stage results:
Liverpool: 3-2 Galatasaray (h); 0-0 PSV (a)
Bordeaux: 0-1 PSV (h); 0-0 Galatasaray (a)

Goals leaders (Europe):
Liverpool: Crouch 3, Bellamy, Garcia, Gonzalez 1
Bordeaux: Bordeaux qualified directly for the group stage, and has not yet scored in this round.

European History:
Liverpool: European Cup/Champions League 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005; UEFA Cup 1973, 1976, 2001; UEFA Super Cup 1977, 2001, 2005
Bordeaux: UEFA Intertoto Cup 1995

Referee: Tom Henning Øvrebø, Norway

Key players for Bordeaux:

Johan Micoud: Much was expected of the former French international upon his return to Bordeaux, but other than the winning goal in his first match back against Lorient, he has under-impressed. No matter his form or his age (he’s 33), Micoud remains a dangerous playmaker from the middle of the field.
Ulrich Rame: The cornerstone of the Bordeaux defense, Rame has been the #1 goalkeeper at the club since 1997, playing in 353 games.
Vladimir Smicer: Vladi is unlikely to play due to a long-standing hamstring injury, but he’s still worth mentioning. I’m sure every Liverpool supporter would like to see him on the pitch. Smicer never realized his full potential at Anfield due to injuries, difficulty adapting to the English game, and competition for places, but he was a fantastic servant for the club. He’ll never be forgotten due to the goal he scored against AC Milan in Istanbul, but I’ll argue it was more meaningful to see him kiss the badge after his successful spot-kick in the final. It was the most fitting way I can think of for him to end his Liverpool career and quite a touching moment. But let’s not get too sentimental; if he plays, Vladi will be dangerous.

My guess of a lineup:

Finnan Carragher Hyypia Riise
Garcia Alonso Sissoko Zenden
Crouch Bellamy

Steven Gerrard hasn’t made the trip to France (neither have Agger and Fowler) after continuing to struggle with a hamstring injury he picked up over the weekend against Blackburn. In addition, according to the Liverpool Echo, Sissoko has an 80% chance of playing due to the ankle injury he picked up over the international break, but with Gerrard out, I expect to see Momo if it's at all possible.

Dirk Kuyt, on the other hand, is only given a 20% chance of playing. I've said it before (and I hope to continue saying it), I expect great things from Kuyt, and always hope to see his name on the teamsheet. But you cannot argue against Crouch’s goal-scoring form in Europe, or against Bellamy, as he finally got off the mark for Liverpool in the Premier League over the weekend. No matter the injury to Kuyt's injury, I would have expected both to start here, and hope to see Kuyt come on in the second half.

But the whole discussion over strikers might be a moot point. Benitez has not shied away from playing 4-5-1 in Europe, and the fact that Liverpool is away makes that formation more of a possibility. There’s an excellent chance we could see Crouch by himself, supported by Garcia from a deeper position. That Liverpool could be missing both Gerrard and Sissoko seemingly makes this less less likely, as Liverpool will probably need Garcia in midfield, whether it’s on the right or left flank, but one can never be sure with Rafa.

I assume Bordeaux will play a very defensive lineup and will base their attack off of possible counters. One would think they would put out a more attacking side, having failed to score a goal in their previous 2 CL matches, but from what I’ve seen of Bordeaux, I don’t know if they can or will pull it off. I usually end up regretting when I feel confident before a match, but even though it’s an away game in Europe, this is a match Liverpool should expect to win.

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