04 November 2015

Liverpool at Rubin Kazan 11.05.15

1pm ET, live in the US on Fox Sports 1

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 Chelsea (a); 1-0 Bournemouth (h); 1-1 Southampton (h)
Kazan: 2-1 Anzhi (a); 1-2 Krasnodar (a); 1-1 Liverpool (a)

Previous rounds:
Liverpool: 1-1 Kazan (h); 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)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Lallana 2, Can 1
Kazan: Kanunnikov, Karadeniz 2; Carlos Eduardo, Devic, Kuzmin, Portnyagin 1

Referee: Kevin Blom (NED)

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Milner Allen Can
Lallana Coutinho

Brendan Rodgers almost never played a full-strength side in away Europe League matches, especially not in the group stage.

We won't see a full-strength XI tomorrow either, but it's still strange to read the "Klopp travels with all available first-team players" stories making the rounds.

It's been almost three years to the day since Liverpool went to Russia to face Anzhi Makhachkala for the fourth match of the group. Sure, Liverpool were top of the group at that point. Liverpool had an arguably weaker – if far less injury-plagued – squad. Liverpool's XI that day was Jones; Wisdom, Coates, Carragher; Flanagan, Henderson, Coady, Shelvey, Downing; Cole; Morgan. The likes of Suarez, Gerrard, Agger, Allen, Skrtel, Sterling, Johnson, Reina, Enrique, and Şahin all stayed on Merseyside.

It's also been exactly a year since Liverpool traveled to Real Madrid and played that XI but the less said about that, the better.

It's a fairly dramatic difference to what we'll see tomorrow.

With a full complement of players, the XI could be anywhere from Mignolet; Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Brannagan, Allen; Ibe, Firmino, Lallana; Origi to the above guess. And maybe it'll be even stronger than the above guess: Benteke in place of Origi, Sakho instead of Lovren, Lucas instead of Allen. But those three seem the most likely to be protected: the first because he's still recently back from injury, the latter two because they still seem the most in need of rest and/or protection. Maybe it's a mix between the two poles: Firmino and/or Ibe starts in place of Lallana or Coutinho, or the 4-2-3-1 we saw at Chelsea rather than the more usual 4-3-2-1.

Liverpool finally have options in most areas of the pitch. Most. Clyne and Moreno will both start for lack of options; Randall is one of the few involved recently to not travel.

Rubin Kazan are pretty much right where Liverpool left them. They (coincidentally) beat Anzhi, dead bottom of the Russian League, on Sunday, but lost to Krasnodar, one place behind Kazan in the table, the weekend before. They've no new injuries since the last meeting. Kuzmin's suspended after his red card two weeks ago, but Kislyak will return from suspension. I suspect we'll see a very similar XI, probably solely accounting for those two changes: Ryzhikov; Ustinov, Kverkvelia, Kambolov, Nabiullin; Ozdoev, Kislyak; Kanunnikov, Carlos Eduardo, Karadeniz; Devic.

Maybe Georgiev keeps his place, most likely over Karadeniz, making Kazan more a 4-3-3. Maybe Portnyagin reclaims his striker role instead of Devic. Kazan will necessarily be more attacking; they're at home, inaugurating a new arena. They'll at least start with a full complement of players rather than 10 men. But we'll still see a lot of Liverpool in possession trying to break down a deep defense.

Yet to win a match in the Europa League, Liverpool could really do with a victory tomorrow. They're four points behind Sion, but just one ahead of both Bordeaux and Kazan. A draw will keep Liverpool in a holding pattern, likely still second (with struggling Bordeaux away to Sion) but with little room for error. Defeat will see Liverpool drop to third or even fourth, probably needing wins in both of the final two matches to qualify.

Which is why Liverpool are traveling with a full-strength squad, and why we'll probably see a surprisingly strong XI tomorrow. It's a big change from what we're used to in this competition. But the last few weeks have been a big change from what came in the year before.

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