25 February 2015

Liverpool at Besiktas 02.26.14

1:00pm ET, live in the US on Fox Sports 1 (or Fox Sports Go and Fox Soccer 2Go apps)

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Southampton (a); 1-0 Besiktas (h); 2-1 Palace (a)
Besiktas: 0-1 Eskisehirspor (a), 0-1 Liverpool (a); 3-2 Bursaspor (h)

Previous European matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Besiktas (h); 1-1 Basel (h); 2-2 Ludogorets (a); 0-1 Real (a); 0-3 Real (h); 0-1 Basel (a); 2-1 Ludogorets (h)
Besiktas: 0-1 Liverpool (a); 1-0 Spurs (h); 2-2 Asteras (a); 2-1 Partizan (h); 4-0 Partizan (a); 1-1 Spurs (a); 1-1 Asteras (h); 0-1 Arsenal (a); 0-0 Arsenal (h)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Balotelli, Gerrard 2; Henderson, Lambert 1
Besiktas: Ba 5; Töre 3; Kavlak, Özyakup, Tosun 1

Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN)

Guess at a line-up:
Toure Skrtel Lovren
Ibe Can Allen Moreno
Lallana Sterling

Unless Rodgers is really going to spring a surprise, there's not a lot that Liverpool can do with tomorrow's line-up.

Gerrard and Lucas remain injured, Markovic's suspended for three more matches, and now Henderson, Coutinho, Sakho, and Johnson are also out. Henderson has a minor ankle problem, Sakho's still bothered by the hip injury which kept him out of Sunday's match, Johnson's ill, and Coutinho's finally being rested.

So, unless Jordan Williams or Jordan Lussey make an unexpected appearance, the central midfield has to be Allen and Can. And if that's the case, the defense has to be Toure, Skrtel, Lovren, unless Javi Manquillo comes in at right center-back for his first appearance in a month, cup ties against Wimbledon and Bolton his only appearances in 2015.

Liverpool have a few more options up front, but I'd still be surprised if it's anything other than Sterling, Lallana, and Sturridge. Maybe Balotelli partners Sturridge with either Sterling or Lallana left out, maybe Balotelli replaces Sturridge with an eye on Sunday's match against Manchester City. Maybe Rodgers remembers which room he locked Lambert and Borini in. But I doubt it. Not with so many other senior players absent.

And even with all the above players absent, I also highly doubt that Liverpool would shift from the three-at-the-back system which has seen so much improvement over the last three months. That's gonna stay the same, regardless of how many players change.

Besiktas, coming off a weekend loss to 12th-place Eskisehirspor – just the second time the club have lost back-to-back matches this season – have injury concerns of their own. Attackers Demba Ba and Töre are questionable, but I'd expect both to be available if at all possible. Starting keeper Zengin remains injured, while both Gülüm and Ramon are suspended after picking up yellow cards in the last leg. And with defenders Koybasi and Milosevic already long-term casualties and Tomas Sivok not on Besiktas' Europa League player list, the home side will be starting a very makeshift defense. Either Atinc Nukan or midfielder Uysai will be drafted in at center-back, while I've no idea who'll start at left-back. Daniel Opare, joining on-loan from Porto last month, but yet to make an appearance for the club and usually a right-back? The other of the two players capable of starting at center-back? Someone else I've never heard of? Your guess really is as good as mine, and might even be better.

Regardless, Liverpool will look to take advantage of that weakness, even though I'd expect a lot less attacking in general from a Liverpool side away from home with a one-goal advantage and with many of its own regulars missing. As against Southampton, Liverpool will look to the counter-attack, especially Ibe against the stand-in left-back and Sterling and Sturridge against the unfamiliar center-back pairing.

Liverpool simply have to not lose tomorrow. "Simply." The suspicion is that should lead to a counter-attacking strategy – midfielders and defenders denying space in Liverpool's half, then looking to break through the front three – but this is still Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool, even if it's not last year's Liverpool. An early goal at the Ataturk would go a long way toward sealing the tie, not allowing Besiktas' unfamiliar defense the time to settle into a rhythm. Which, incidentally, is what Southampton attempted to do to Liverpool on Sunday. You remember how that went for Southampton.

Over the last few months, these two sides have taken more points because of their defense rather than their attack. But, and it seems obvious to say, this match will be won by goals, by the team with the better attack. Because you can't expect two makeshift defenses to go through 90 minutes without conceding.

Which, I expect you'll remember, is exactly how last season's Liverpool liked it.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Why did BR take off Mario!? Once again Mario was looking our best hold up player and most creative! Emre Can played like SHIT! Diving like a bitch!

Sturridge was as bad as Borini! Lambert is worthless.


BR doesn't like Balotelli, and it costed us this game.

Also, why would you pair Can and Allen in CDM!? WTF! We never had control of the game.

Joe Allen is such a joke. He can't hold possession,can't go forward, too short to be a CDM, he is a poor man's Lucas who is a poor man's Mascherano, who is a poor man's Makelele!

Nate... I hate to say it but Bendan fucking Rodgers is starting to cost us not just games but Cups!

If you are a star player why would you WANT to come to LFC!? Look how BR treats Balotelli!

You bring on Lallana for Balotelli!?

20 years from now people will remember the name Balotelli, no one will give a flying fuck about Lallana.

There is a REASON no one knows who Lallana is outside of Europe. There is a reason he didn't formerly play for the EPL Champs.

Are people forgetting this? It was Balotelli who was involved with Man City toppling UTD and winning the league. Not Lallana, not Brendad Rodgers, not Lambert, not Sturridge, not JOE FUCKING ALLEN.

Mark my words, with Brendan Rodgers as manager Liverpool will NEVER win ANYTHING.