02 October 2007

Liverpool v Marseille 10.03.07

2:45pm EST on espn2

Marseille is currently 17th in Ligue 1.

Group Stage:
Liverpool: : 1-1 Porto (a)
Marseille: 2-0 Besiktas (h)

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Wigan (a): 4-2 Reading (a); 0-0 Brum (h)
Marseille: 0-2 Auxerre (a), 2-0 Besiktas (h); 1-2 Toulouse (h)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Kuyt 3; Crouch, Hyypia, Voronin 1
Marseille: Cisse, Rodriguez 1

Referee: Konrad Plautz (AUT)

Guess at a squad
Finnan Carragher Hyypia Aurelio
Benayoun Gerrard Sissoko Babel
Crouch Voronin

I don't really have any firm logic behind the guess -- and I'm fully aware of how often I've said that Torres needs to play as frequently as possible -- but this seems like a game for Crouch and Voronin. It's always looked likely that Crouch will get more games in Europe than the league, and it's rare that Marseille comes up against a striker with his height and touch, even if Crouchy's underperformed in his last couple of outings. Voronin hasn't started since Birmingham (and hasn't scored since Derby), but he'll continue to get games, and I wouldn't be surprised if Benitez went with his "second-choice" pairing tomorrow.

Torres will be massively influential in the upcoming stretch of games against Tottenham, Everton, and Arsenal. Time and time again, Benitez has reiterated how he's going to use all four strikers, and I think that Liverpool will have Torres on the bench on Wednesday partly in preparation for those important games in the league throughout October. Plus, and this isn't meant as a slight by any means, but like against Birmingham, Liverpool should have enough talent to challenge Marseille's defense without Torres on from the start. Let's hope the result differs though.

With Pennant suspended, Benayoun has to be in for a start following his two goals in the last two games. He's been lauded as a super-sub because of how he changed the game at Wigan, but I'm certain he'll see a fair amount of starts as well -- probably about as many as Garcia did.

Gerrard, even though he could use the rest, will probably start in central midfield, with the captain returning to fitness following his toe injury and likely to play as many matches as physically possible. The question seems to be who will partner him, and I reckon it's going to be Sissoko in place of Mascherano. Marseille is strongest playing through the middle, and Sissoko will have his hands full keeping the opposition from settling into the game.

It could be either Riise or Aurelio at left back (I still think that Arbeloa has to be rested in some upcoming games), and while Riise is probably closer to full fitness, I'd like to see Aurelio in there for two reasons. First, he's an incredible boon on set plays and in crossing the ball, which Liverpool needs regardless, but it’s even more important when Crouch is on the field. Second, we've yet to see Aurelio play with Ryan Babel, who I think will start on the left flank, and I'm curious to see how the two combine on the flank.

Marseille may have been gash so far this season, with only 7 points from 9 games, but they will have a point to prove in their first game under new manager Erik Gerets. They looked a far different team against Besiktas in the Champions League than they have in Ligue 1, and they won't be any pushovers, even at Anfield.

Maybe it's because all former Liverpool players seem to have blinders going up against their former team, but I am very afraid of Cisse, especially on the counter-attack. If Agger were healthy it wouldn't be an issue, but we know Djibril has pace to burn against both Hyypia and Carragher. He wasn't a Benitez player by any means, and frustrated me even more than Baros did, but he single-handedly won the Super Cup, and the only ill will I'll bear against him is if he scores. I expect both he and Bolo Zenden to get a deserved warm welcome.

When all's said and done, you have to win your home matches in the group stage to advance. The only match that Liverpool lost at Anfield in last year's CL campaign was the 1-0 second leg against Barcelona, and Liverpool's got an excellent record against French clubs at Anfield (the only French side to ever come away with even a draw at Anfield was the 03/04 Marseille squad that lost in the UEFA Cup final to Benitez's Valencia).

With an away trip to Besiktas, which is never as easy place to travel to, up next in the Champions League, it’s imperative that Liverpool get all three points tomorrow to get to where they need to be in the group.

Roll on Liverpool.

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