Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Tottenham (a); 1-1 Everton (a); 1-1 Sion (h)
Kazan: 3-1 Ufa (h); 1-2 Terek Grozny (a); 0-0 Bordeaux (h)
Liverpool: 1-1 Sion (h); 1-1 Bordeaux (a)
Kazan: 0-0 Bordeaux (h); 1-2 Sion (a); 1-0 Rabotnicki (h), 1-1 Rabotnicki (a); 1-1 Sturm Graz (h), 3-2 Sturm Graz (a)
Liverpool: Lallana 2
Kazan: Kanunnikov, Karadeniz 2; Carlos Eduardo, Kuzmin, Portnyagin 1
Referee: Robert Schörgenhofer (AUT)
Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Skrtel Sakho Moreno
Milner Coutinho Ibe
An entirely different manager, an entirely new attempt to gauge how seriously that manager will take this competition. If Klopp puts out a full-strength XI – and that's a fairly big if – I can only see a couple of changes: Ibe for Lallana or Coutinho, and Allen for Lucas or Can.
Even if Klopp wanted to, there are few options for alterations. Ings, Gomez, and Flanagan are out for months; Henderson and Rossiter for a little while longer. Sturridge, Benteke, Lovren, and Firmino are back in training, but none will start – or probably even play – until Sunday at the earliest.
I remind: Liverpool's bench on Saturday was Bogdan, Toure, Allen, Ibe, Randall, Teixeira, and Sinclair. Other than Ibe, Allen, and possibly Toure, if there are changes, it'll be youth players getting a chance. There were the three on the bench on Saturday – a right back, attacking midfielder, and striker – but Chirivella, Brannagan, and Maguire are also remote possibilities.
So you balance who's actually available with the regular starters you're most concerned about. Lucas rarely played three matches in a week under Rodgers. Lallana rarely plays 80+ minutes, rarely starts multiple matches in a matter of days, and ran an awful lot on Saturday. We're always concerned about Sakho's number of matches and ability to stay fit. Emre Can has still featured in every match this season.
In addition, Sunday's clearly the more important, tougher fixture, but if Liverpool want to qualify for the knockout rounds, Liverpool probably need to win this match. Sion have four points, Bordeaux and Liverpool two, Kazan one. Liverpool will only have one more home match after this. Advancement isn't impossible with a draw or even a loss tomorrow, but it makes doing so infinitely harder.
At the same time, it's not as if Liverpool's opponents are in sparkling form. Kazan's home win against second-to-bottom Ufa last weekend was Kazan's first win in any competition since September 12. After 12 matches, they sit 12 in the 16-team Russian League, with three wins, a draw, and eight losses.
Midfielder Kislyak is suspended after two yellows against Bordeaux, with Georgiev the most likely replacement – although he's also questionable after missing the weekend match through injury – but otherwise, my best guess at an XI is the same which Kazan started in both their last league match. Ryzhikov; Kuzmin, Kverkvelia, Kambolov, Nabiullin; Ozdoev, Georgiev; Kanunnikov, Carlos Eduardo, Karadeniz; Portnyagin.
Maybe ex-Evertonian Diniyar Bilyaletdinov – who has received fewer opportunities since his father was fired in September, replaced by Valeri Chaly – comes into the side. Maybe Marko Devic, a former Ukrainian international, starts up front in place of the struggling Portnyagin or alongside him. Kanunnikov can start up front or on the flanks; Carlos Eduardo as the #10 or out wide. Rubin Kazan, unlike Liverpool, seemingly have options. It's just that I'm not entirely sure what those options entail or which will be preferred.
It'll be interesting to see how Liverpool under Klopp respond to the pressure of expectations. Everyone was on a high following Klopp's appointment at Tottenham – and, to be fair, still are – and considering each side's respective forms and venue, anything earned at White Hart Lane, any progress, even marginal, made would be a bonus.
That's not the case tomorrow. Liverpool are at home, for Klopp's Anfield debut. Liverpool are deservedly favored. Liverpool are the better side. Liverpool need to win. How will Liverpool react?