Reds To Remain On Rocky Road Against BaselStats
Basel v Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers’ side face a difficult task on Wednesday evening when they face FC Basel in Switzerland…
Basel’s defence of their Swiss Super League title has gotten off to a solid start. They won six of their first seven, although a defeat to Grasshoppers at the start of the month and a draw against Thun at the weekend has enabled FC Zurich to make up some ground. They were given a stiff test in their opening Champions League Group B game and predictably struggled, losing 5-0 at the Bernabeu.
Liverpool have made a shaky start in their bid to build on last year’s achievements. An early league defeat at Manchester City wasn’t a disaster, but since the international break they’ve lost to Aston Villa and West Ham, been made to toil against lowly Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad in their Champions League opener, scraped through against Middlesbrough in the League Cup and dropped two points against Everton in Saturday’s Merseyside derby.
Basel’s injury problems are not as serious as Liverpool’s, although they are still without long-term absentee Ivan Ivanov, who has been out since January and Philipp Degen, who has not played since picking up a foot injury at the end of August.
Liverpool received a boost with the return of Martin Skrtel to the first team on Saturday, but they are still without some key players. Jon Flanagan could be out until 2015 with a persistent knee problem and Emre Can is still unavailable. Daniel Sturridge has recovered from injury and Glen Johnson returned to training on Friday, but neither made the squad against Everton and will lack match fitness.
These teams have met twice before, in the Group stages of the Champions League in 2002. The first game was a 1-1 draw at Anfield in which the Swiss side equalised just before half-time and held on for the point.
The return leg was a little more exciting and featured six goals. Basel raced into a 3-0 lead after half an hour, but Liverpool clawed the game back in the last thirty minutes thanks to goals from Danny Murphy, Vladimir Smicer and an equaliser from Michael Owen with five minutes to go.
But although it finished honours even, Liverpool finished third in the group that season and were eliminated, while Basel went on to the second Group Stage, where they missed out on a quarter-final spot due to goal difference.
Last season, Liverpool blew teams away with pace and dynamic attacking play, but have lacked fluency so far this season, and although Mario Balotelli has been working hard, he has not yet found his scoring touch.
Defensive errors have also been a problem, and the Reds could have their work cut at against a Basel side that has already scored three or more goals on four occasions this season.
I think Brendan Rodgers will adopt a cautious approach and hope to sneak something on the counter-attack. Back the draw in the Match Betting market at 13/5.