2:45pm, live in the US on Setanta
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 United (h); 0-0 Villa (a); 1-0 Liege (h)
Marseille: 1-1 Bordeaux (a); 2-1 Sochaux (h); 1-0 Le Havre (a)
Referee: Konrad Plautz (AUS)
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Dossena
Kuyt Gerrard Alonso Riera
In my guess at a squad, I’m assuming Gerrard and Torres are fit enough to start, although, like over the weekend, it’ll be a late decision. But like Saturday, if they aren’t ready, I hope both are on the bench again, for the same reasons explained a couple of days back.
At the same time, Mascherano will probably be left out after picking up an injury late on Saturday even though he's with the team in France. However, if it was just severe cramp (Liverpool Echo), he may be in contention, but I’ve also seen the injury referred to as a groin (BBC) or calf problem (Guardian). In addition, Aurelio has been ruled out due to a minor calf injury (he just cannot stay fit), but I would have expected to see Dossena regardless.
I think Liverpool will continue on with the 4-4-2 formation, especially with the addition of Riera on the left. If Mascherano’s out and Gerrard’s fit, the captain will probably pair Alonso in the center, but Lucas could be back after missing out Saturday due to a late return from the international break.
Chances are Kuyt will return to the right, but if Torres isn’t healthy, we could see Benayoun or Babel (although, as usual, I’ll claim Babel’s far better as a sub) on the flank with Kuyt pairing Keane up top. But, and even though both were acclaimed for their roles Saturday, I’m worried there aren’t enough goals in that strike force.
Liverpool finally showed marked improvement on Saturday. Part of that was down to their opponents, as the team was raring to face United, but it was also only a matter of time after the underwhelming performances that started the season.
In addition, Riera made a clear difference, and although Benitez said he’s not fully fit (which was the main reason he went off after 71 minutes), I’m hopeful he’s healthy enough for another start. Liverpool need the width and the creative spark he provides. Plus, when Riera holds wide on the left, Kuyt or Benayoun cutting in from the right becomes far more potent than when wingers on both flanks are pushing into the middle.
Marseille’s unbeaten through five matches so far this season, with three wins and two draws in Ligue 1. They’ve lost Cisse and Nasri since the two teams last met, but have replaced them with Hatem Ben Arfa and Bakari Kone, both dangerous attackers in their own right. Both Ben Arfa and Valbuena, who scored the winner at Anfield a year ago, were relegated to the bench over the weekend thanks to respective injuries, but the French media expects both to start tomorrow.
Otherwise, it’s a fairly similar team to the one Liverpool faced in the group stage last season, where they lost 0-1 at Anfield only to comprehensively win 4-0 in France to seal progression to the knockout rounds. And one can’t forget that Gerrard and Torres were key to the win in Marseille, scoring the first two within 10 minutes, setting the tone for the next 80.
It’s imperative that Liverpool starts the group stage on the right foot. Last year’s run is still all too familiar; poor form in the first three games meant that Liverpool needed “perfect” matches in the last three, which they got with big wins over Porto, Besiktas, and Marseille. And after the win over the weekend, the boys should be confident and raring to start the Champions League campaign.