2:45pm EST on Setanta
Besiktas is currently 3rd 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: 0-1 Marseille (h); 1-1 Porto (a)
Besiktas: 0-1 Porto (h); 0-2 Marseille (a)
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 Everton (a) 2-2 Spurs (h); 0-0 Brum (h)
Besiktas: 3-2 Trabzonspor (a), 1-0 Genclerbirligi (h); 0-1 Porto (h)
Liverpool: Kuyt 3; Crouch, Hyypia, Voronin 1
Besiktas: Delgado 3; Bobo 2; Koray Avci, Toraman 1
Referee: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark)
Guess at a squad
Finnan Carragher Hyypia Riise
Pennant Gerrard Mascherano Benayoun
Torres, Agger, and Arbeloa didn’t travel due to injuries (nor did Aurelio), but Alonso is back in the squad. I still don’t necessarily think he’ll start though. I’m fully aware how important Xabi is to the team, but he’s been out for about a month, and there is the small matter of the Arsenal game on Sunday.
It’s tempting to think Lucas could start in his place based off of Saturday’s performance, and he is in the squad, but the bench is probably where he’ll stay for the time being. I do feel the need to reiterate that was more than impressed with him in the last match.
Even if Torres was fit, I still would have guessed Crouch to start. I know he’s come under a fair bit of stick, including from yours truly, as he hasn’t been at his best this season. But it’s an away game, it’s in Europe, and I doubt Besiktas’ defenders have come up against a striker like him often. If Crouch doesn’t play in a game like this, he’s not going to see much action at all. And the Kuyt/Crouch partnership had it moments last year, as well as against Toulouse at Anfield this season.
Admittedly, I know next to nothing about Besiktas’s squad, other than striker Bobo and midfielder Matias Delgado (who’s been compared to Aimar) can pop up with goals. Fans of Besiktas, in the Spyin’ Kop on RAWK (which can be incredibly helpful before a match like this), believe that the team will play narrow and compact in the midfield.
Having both Pennant and Benayoun on the field, with Riise charging up from defense, and Babel on the bench if needed, would ideally be able to exploit space on the flanks if the midfield is congested. But I truly believe tomorrow’s personnel depends more on how Benitez wants Liverpool to line up on Sunday.
Liverpool’s two group games so far have been abysmal by the standards set over the last three seasons. For all the talk about how the league is far more important this season (which it is), the Champions League is essential to both the financial health of the club and the morale of the team. And the last thing Liverpool needs is to finish third in the group and settle for a UEFA Cup run; 4th place in the group is almost preferable.
The draw at Porto was one thing. But the loss to Marseille at home means Liverpool needs to pick up all three points in Istanbul, which is never an easy place to go. Benitez has been quoted as saying 10 points is the bare minimum for qualification, which means that Liverpool needs at least 9 points from 4 games.
Also, and most importantly in my mind (despite the last two paragraphs), Liverpool needs to keep up the momentum following Saturday’s match into Sunday, at Anfield, against league-leading Arsenal.