24 February 2016

Liverpool v FC Augsburg 02.25.16

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

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Augsburg (a); 6-0 Villa (a); 1-2 West Ham aet (a)
Augsburg: 1-0 Hannover (a); 0-0 Liverpool (h); 1-3 Bayern (h)

Previous rounds:
Liverpool: 0-0 Augsburg (a); 0-0 Sion (a); 2-1 Bordeaux (h); 1-0 Kazan (a); 1-1 Kazan (h); 1-1 Sion (h); 1-1 Bordeaux (a)
Augsburg: 0-0 Liverpool (h); 3-1 Partizan (a); 2-3 Athletic Bilbao (h); 4-1 AZ (h); 0-1 AZ (a); 1-3 Partizan (h); 1-3 Athletic (a)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Lallana 2, Benteke, Can, Ibe, Milner 1
Augsburg: Bobadilla 6; Trochowski 2; Altintop, Hong, Ji, Verhaegh 1

Referee: Clément Turpin (FRA)

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Toure Sakho Moreno
Henderson Can
Milner Firmino Coutinho

It'll be the same team as a week ago. Lovren, Skrtel, Lallana, and Allen remain absent, along with the other long-term casualties. With Liverpool needing to attack (and attack consistently), and needing to score, I doubt Lucas comes into the side. There will be only three days in between this and the League Cup Final at Wembley, but Liverpool won't hold players back with an eye on that contest. A trophy is a trophy is a trophy, but progression in the Europa League (and a Champions League place for the eventual winner) is nearly as important, and Liverpool have had a week between matches to prepare players for playing in both fixtures.

So as long as certain players (*glances warily at Sturridge, Henderson*) haven't suffered any setbacks in training, it'll be the XI we saw in Germany. Which remains, despite the failings in Germany, arguably the strongest XI that Liverpool can put out. As long as that XI performs to their capabilities. Which, as usual, remains a crapshoot.

Last week, Augsburg were without Daniel Bayer, Jeong-Ho Hong, Jan Moravek, Piotr Trochowski, and Jan-Ingwer Callen-Bracker due to injury, as well as Jeffrey Gouweleeuw because he's cup-tied. Raul Bobadilla strained his hamstring 15 minutes into the match. And midfielder Markus Feulner broke his cheekbone over the weekend. Eight players who'd at least have a chance to start will be absent, and it's not as if Augsburg have a large squad to begin with. Liverpool can empathize.

Icelandic striker Alfred Finnbogason started up front in place of Bobadilla at Hannover, with Caiuby on the left, Koo in the hole, and Esswein on the right. We could see that again, or ex-Sunderland striker Ji Dong-Won up front, or both Werner and Altintop returning to the side in the positions they played against Liverpool. And I have absolutely no idea who'll start in midfield in place of Feulner, especially since the usual replacements – Baier, Trochowski, even center-backs Hong or Gouweleeuw – are also out. Maybe Koo or Esswein drops deeper, maybe Augsburg change formation, maybe Augsburg use a defender or a youth player I've never heard of. No clue.

For formality's sake, let's guess the XI to be Hitz; Verhaegh, Janker, Klaven, Stafylidis; Koo, Kohr; Esswein, Altintop, Caiuby; Ji. But I'm fully prepared to be wrong in a few places. No matter who starts, Augsburg will mostly do what Augsburg did a week ago: soak up Liverpool pressure, deny chances, press when given the opportunity, look to force turnovers, and counter-attack at pace. With Liverpool at Anfield, there will probably be an even larger possession discrepancy, but that could just as easily leave Liverpool more exposed when Augsburg do get the chance to counter. A single away goal could easily decide tomorrow's match.

Meanwhile, Liverpool need to score, and could well need to score multiple times. Which basically makes this the same story we've told time and time again. If Liverpool do good things in attack – even just a couple of things – and don't do stupid things in defense, Liverpool will win. Liverpool need to take their chances, Liverpool need to not make errors at the back.

But Liverpool haven't done (or not done) those things with any sort of consistency. This would be a good week to start.

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