30 September 2015

Liverpool v FC Sion 10.01.15

3:05pm ET, live in the US on Fox Sports 1

Head-to-head meetings:
6-3 Liverpool (h) 10.31.96
2-1 Liverpool (a) 10.17.96

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-2 Villa (h); 1-1 Carlisle aet [3-2 pens] (h); 1-1 Norwich (h)
Sion: 0-1 Vaduz (a); 0-2 Grasshopper (h); 2-0 Münsingen (a)

Previous rounds:
Liverpool: 1-1 Bordeaux (a)
Sion: 2-1 Rubin Kazan (h)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Lallana 1
Sion: Konate 2

Referee: Slavko Vinčić (SVN)

Guess at a line-up:
Toure Skrtel Gomez
Clyne Rossiter Allen Ibe
Ings Origi

As per usual. Liverpool are going to make a lot of changes to the starting XI in this competition. Liverpool have even more incentive to make changes with a Merseyside Derby imminent. Liverpool have even less ability to make changes because of the lengthy injury list, still featuring Henderson, Benteke, Firmino, Lovren, and Flanagan.

Let's start our assumptions by assuming Liverpool will stick with three at the back. Because, well, Liverpool have been marginally better in that formation.

Gomez and Toure seemingly have to start in defense, joined by Skrtel only because he's more durable than Sakho.

Jordon Ibe will be one of the wing backs, most likely joined by Clyne, who sat out the match at Bordeaux, seemingly less in need of rest than Moreno is. There's a small chance that Can keeps his spot in central defense, allowing Gomez to play as the other wing-back, but Can is the only player who has featured in all nine of Liverpool's fixtures and Joe Gomez is not a wing-back. I doubt I need remind that Jose Enrique is still not a thing.

Rossiter and Allen look certain to be the midfield, allowing Milner, Lucas, and Can to be rested.

The attack is slightly more difficult to forecast. With Benteke and Firmino out and with Sturridge certain to be rested, one of Coutinho or Ings will have to join Lallana and Origi in attack. Ings, Energizer Bunny-in-training that he appears to be, is probably more capable of being fit for Sunday's derby after playing 90 minutes on Thursday.

Maybe Liverpool revert to 4-3-3, something like Mignolet; Clyne, Skrtel, Toure, Gomez; Milner, Rossiter, Allen; Ibe, Origi, Lallana, but if it ain't (that) broke, etc.

FC Sion are currently fifth in the Swiss league – winning four, losing four, and drawing twice – already 13 points behind league leaders Basel. Which kind of seems par for the course; they finished 7th of 10 last season, qualifying for the Europa League because of their victory in the Swiss Cup.

But Sion's owner is angry, hilariously condemning both manager and playing staff after their second successive defeat last weekend. Which, knowing Liverpool, will be a prelude to Sion heroically finding form, and which wouldn't have been wholly out of the question anyway, having beaten a favored Rubin Kazan at home in the last group stage match.

I've admittedly heard of just three of Sion's players, because I'm pretty bad about watching any competition that isn't based in England or featuring Liverpool: right-back Zverotic, who featured for Young Boys against Liverpool in this competition three years ago; left-back Ziegler, a Swiss international and formerly of Tottenham, among others; and new signing Mujangi Bia, a winger who's had short stints with Wolves and Watford in recent years.

My complete guess at their XI, based off their last few lineups, is Vanins; Zverotic, Lacroix, Vanczak, Ziegler; Salatic; Mujangi Bia, Kouassi, Edimilson Fernandes, Carlitos; Konate. Some variation on 4-5-1, whether it ends up looking more like a 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3. I'm obviously hoping the former, because the latter would mean they're on the front foot far too often. 22-year-old Senegal international Moussa Konate is the main threat, linked with a host of Premier League clubs over the summer, having scored both of Sion's goals against Kazan and five goals in the league.

This is a match that Liverpool need to win if they hope to qualifying for the knockout rounds. Win your home games, compete in the away games; sometimes it really is as simple as that. This is a match that Liverpool need to win to demonstrate that Saturday wasn't a fluke and that this squad is beginning to make tangible progress, to relieve the pressure on both Rodgers and the playing staff. And even though it dwarfs tomorrow in importance, Liverpool can't already focus on Sunday's derby.

There aren't any easy matches in Europe, as every Premier League side in Europe has demonstrated, whether in the Champions League or Europa League. English sides are big scalps for the smaller countries, and lately, English sides often seem woefully underprepared for continental competition.

That simply can't happen to Liverpool tomorrow.

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