Lille lead 1-0 on aggregate.
4:00pm ET, live in the US on DirecTV channel 462 (or in HD on 462-1). Delayed on GolTV at 8pm.
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 4-1 Pompey (h); 0-1 Lille (a); 0-1 Wigan (a)
Lille: 1-0 Grenoble (h); 1-0 Liverpool (h); 1-1 St Etienne (a)
Round of 32:
Liverpool: 3-1 Unirea (a); 1-0 Unirea (h)
Unirea: 1-1 Fenerbahce (a); 2-1 Fenerbahce (h)
Group Stage Results:
Liverpool: 1-2 Fiorentina (h); 1-0 Debrecen (a); 1-1 Lyon (a); 1-2 Lyon (h); 0-2 Fiorentina (a); 1-0 Debrecen (h)
Lille: 3-1 Slavia Prague (h); 1-3 Valencia (a); 2-3 Genoa (a); 3-0 Genoa (h); 5-1 Slavia (h); 1-1 Valencia (h) [Europa League]
Liverpool: Benayoun, Babel, Ngog 2; Gerrard, Kuyt, Mascherano 1
Lille: Gervinho 5; Hazard 4; Frau, Vittek 3; Cabaye, Dumont, de Melo, Obraniak 2; Balmont, Beria, Rami, Souquet 1
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA)
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Carragher Agger Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun
So much for seeing the same line-up as against Portsmouth (save Kuyt for Maxi, obviously). Aquilani’s health just won’t let that happen. Stupid virus.
Chances are we’re back to dance with the formation that brung us. The other possibilities both see Gerrard in midfield: 4-4-2 or Kuyt/Benayoun taking over the Gerrard role in the 4-2-3-1. But Gerrard and Torres linked well for the first time in a long time on Monday. Now that Stevie and Torres might have rediscovered their partnership, it’s not the time to move Gerrard deeper.
Maxi’s ineligibility means the flanks will be two from Babel, Benayoun, and Kuyt. Kuyt seems nailed-on: it’s Europe and he was rested (Rafa doesn’t drop Kuyt!) against Pompey. Babel was almost a revelation on Monday, but I think he’s more likely to start against the Mancs, where counter-attacking and pace will be more crucial. Benayoun’s guile at home, with Babel off the bench, seems the straightforward option tomorrow, but those roles could easily be reversed.
What worked against Pompey was pouring men forward, looking for a testing pass that advances play rather than probing for openings before hoofing toward Kuyt or Torres. No matter who plays in midfield tomorrow, that’ll be key. Liverpool can’t let the likes of Hazard, Cabaye, and Obraniak get chances on the break, which is an argument for Lucas/Masch in and of itself, but keeping the ball and using it well will decide whether Liverpool win or lose this game. The tactics, more than the line-up, will make or break tomorrow.
We saw what Lille can do a week ago. They won’t be content with a 1-0 lead, and will look to add to it through the previously identified threats. They’ll pack their own half and try to spring like lightning when available. Liverpool’s seen it before, even if Hazard presents a problem like few other wingers.
This season’s obviously been different from past campaigns, but I still shouldn’t have to remind what Liverpool’s capable of in Europe. No matter recent results, 0-1 at home is easily remedied. It’s only halftime.