Liverpool take on Basel tonight at Anfield in their last group game of this year’s Champions League campaign. Kick-off on Merseyside is at 7:45pm.
Liverpool need to beat the Swiss side, whilst Basel can afford to draw the game tonight. The Reds are currently on four points while Basel are on six.
Although Liverpool have home advantage in their favour and are on paper a stronger side, they will be extremely wary of the threat Basel possess, especially after the Swiss club managed to scrape a 1-0 win over the Reds at the beginning of October.
Looking back on how Liverpool have performed in recent weeks, there are some signals of improvement. Starting with a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle back at the start of November Liverpool went on a three-game losing streak in the league. Their form has picked up since then however, with a 0-0 draw against Sunderland recently, halting their ambitions of a third successive win.
Although form is improving of late, the performances have left a lot to be desired and a scrappy game against Sunderland is not the sort of preparation Brendan Rodgers’ side would have been looking for heading into a potentially season-defining clash.
If the Reds are to win it could be a boost which this Liverpool side has needed since the start of the season to get out of second gear, not only in Europe but domestically also. The Reds have struggled to ignite the same sort of mentality, and at times scintillating forward play which made them stand out from the crowd last year.
If Liverpool are to come unstuck again tonight then the season is likely to peter out with that. A lot of the pre-season excitement surrounded Liverpool making their way back to European football’s top table but a poor result tonight will significantly dent confidence and give little to distract from what will be an uphill battle on the domestic front.
Although the Anfield outfit are likely to struggle in their attempts to progress past the last 16, should they win later, due in-part to finishing-up second and having a more difficult game once qualified, they would still take confidence from making it through on the final day of group competition.
Mario Balotelli is still out for the game and although he hasn’t exactly been a revelation since arriving at Anfield, Liverpool will need a presence up-front against Basel.
Steven Gerrard will likely start the game having began the Sunderland game on the bench. However, Brendan Rodgers was quick to play down the sole importance of his captain and instead believes team performance will be crucial tonight, when speaking to Sky Sports,
“In terms of Steven, we can’t be just reliant solely on him, this has to be about a team performance.
“We need other players to step up to the mark, to take on responsibility and be a catalyst, and not place it on his shoulders.
“It has never been about that for us. For us to get a result tomorrow night we need for the team to be performing well.
“It is an opportunity for the players to write themselves into folklore by winning the game and ensuring they get into the next round, because that is the objective.”
The objective is clear but whether Liverpool can withstand the pressure and the importance of the occasion is another thing. The Reds boss is certainly not low on confidence in his side; this must transcend to his players tonight though as they aim to take a major step in turning around an average season thus far.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena